Sunday, October 26, 2014

Building Muscle Memory

Athletes and musicians know the importance of building muscle memory. That is why they practice  over and over. The body's response should be automatic and not require thinking and remembering. When faced with a performance, the muscles should be used to doing the next step and therefore will continue in case of stage fright. I'm sure there is more science to it, but that is the gist.

I was recently reminded how strong this memory can be when a fellow teacher asked me to play 'Cat's Cradle' with her in class one day. I hadn't played in over 20 years, possibly even 30, but amazingly it came back to me after only a few false starts with the string. Within five minutes, I was able to get the cat whiskers and the witch's broom. And I did it all without thinking through the steps - my hands simply knew which way to go. 

I was thinking about the power of muscle memory and reading. The girl just turned two years old and already she knows how to hold a book and turn the pages. When we read, I can see her eyes tracking the story from the left page to the right page. She has two favorite books that she can 'read' and tell almost all the words, based on the pictures. I'm hoping these early skills will stay with her and as she enters school, she can free up some of her memory to work on letters and sounds, rather than tracking and turning pages.

Some of the girl's favorites:

Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop by Anna Dewdney

Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton

Pride & Prejudice: A Babylit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Learning

"Your best teacher is your last mistake."
-Ralph Nader

Learning something new can be hard and require a lot of time, effort, and risk.

I know because I recently embarked on trying to learn about Twitter. I'm not so interested in putting my thoughts out there, but I am interested in acquiring more information. I want to gather more knowledge and I don't know another way to stay connected with the smart people of the world. I think with Twitter I can get a glimpse inside their minds, without having to actually talk to anyone.

So, off I go. Into the wide world of the internet. Is it even called the world wide web anymore? 

As I try to acquire these new skills, I know I have to be comfortable with not knowing everything. I have to be comfortable with asking questions that seem like things I should be able to answer for myself. I have to be able to seek out multiple resources and friends who are willing to help me along. Most of all, I have to be comfortable making mistakes. Without making mistakes, I will not grow in my learning. 

It's funny that we tell students and small children that they are encouraged to make mistakes and try things out - "that is how you learn", we tell them. Yet, I don't know many adults who are encouraged to go out and make mistakes. We expect that as adults we have all the answers, even if we have not tried these things before. 

I'm hoping to set a good example to the girl about how important it is to try new things and maybe mess up. The stakes are pretty small. Maybe I'll have a random 'tweet' or I'll end up following someone I don't know. Meh. At least then I will know how not to do it again.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty