Reading the Learning Spiral

In learning to read, Maryann Wolf draws out, children begin to recognize letters, syllables, then whole words in the eventual service of fluency with language.  This fluency is darn near dynamic–understanding the shades of meaning in words, how they can change contextually, is no small cognitive skill.  Reading prompts learners to see narrative arcs, expect plot lines, and it enriches their sense of the world.

That recognition builds upon itself, moving outward in an ever-complex spiral of understanding:
“The principles here function in a self-reinforcing spiral: the more coherent the story is to the child, the more easily it is held in memory; the more easily remembered the story is, the more it will contribute to the child’s emerging schemata; and the more schemata a child develops, the more coherent other stories will become and the greater the child’s knowledge base for future reading will be” (90).

This week I was asked what my theory of learning was. My first thought was cheeky–“I have just one?”

I kid–but I’d never been asked to cement it pithily. In thinking it over, I’ve come up with

Learning: it starts with the learner and a sense of tinkering or play, extends out to and is enriched by the world. Not all that pithy. But getting punchier by the day. 🙂

So Wolf’s imagery about a learning spiral rang true to me, in terms of what reading encourages learners to do: place new information into their individual framework, and then recognize those concepts in the world.  I would actually take it a step further–my instinct would be to ask learners to make books via Blurb or Createspace.


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