Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Learning Versus Tests- the Stapler

I remember several years ago reading in the book Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read (by Oelwein, Woodbine House) the difference between learning and tests.. She was teaching a child to read, and an observer “caught” on that the child was looking at the picture (ie., he did not yet know the word), and said “He’s cheating!” Ms. Oelwein replied, “I’m teaching.”
[ A side note here. This book has an excellent section on HOW to teach children with Down syndrome. Another book, with an even more extensive section on “how to teach” is Steps to Independence (Brookes Publishing), and I heartily recommend both books.]
Sometimes, as we endeavor to teach our children, we can end up “testing” them before they are ready. If they are learning, props can be consulted when needed.
Which brings us to Ricki. Last night I saw that Ricki was trying to fill a stapler with (what else?)staples. I immediately realized that this was an opportunity to teach her a very useful life skill. I told her that I could see that she was having problems, and that I could show her how to do it. She got a bit defensive (I’ll do it on my own), but was not succeeding with the stapler.
“Ricki, its OK that you don’t know how to do it. I never taught you, and you just need to LEARN how.” Luckily there were two staplers on the table. “I’ll show you with this one, and then YOU can fill the second one.” So I showed her, and then she very successfully did the second stapler. However, as she was filling it, she turned her back so that I shouldn’t see.
“Ricki, there is no reason why you should turn your back. This is not a test. You are learning something NEW, and if I see, I can help be sure you are able to learn this correctly… I am not testing you.”

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