Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Meaning-Orientation and Code-Orientation
As we think about the innocence of a child, an infant even, it seems impossible to think we could ever purposely corrupt such a fragile being. From protecting children from bullies at school, to inappropriate words on the television, we are always trying to keep our children true to themselves... In almost all facets of their life, but literacy. As teachers, we pressure our students into "getting it right!" We correct poor grammar, and endorse only functionally correct sentence structure. We are forgetting to protect their beings. Children grow up with meaning-oriented purposes. They grunt, move, sign, and cry for something: a bottle, more food, Mommy, or a sore belly. Children have this innate concept of speaking for a purpose, to come to a desired goal or ending. As children mature, and begin to speak in formal language terms, they use this same concept. Little girls might point and say, "dolly," meaning, give her the doll. As a parent usually does, the response might be, "can you say, 'can I have my doll please?'" Instead of accepting and appreciating the child's pure and true attempt to communicate a need and want, we correct them. The message we are sending to our children is that their form of communication, though authentic, is incorrect. Thus, as children enter Kindergarten, they are conditioned to be careful with their words. Children carefully construct sentences with the absolute more correct diction. They lose their risk-taking nature, which destroyed their ability for creativity and new ideas and words. At this point, children become code-oriented thinkers, instead of meaning-oriented. This means, as elementary school learners are reading a book, they are reading to dissect the words, get the pronunciation right, and impress their teachers/parents with their "A+" reading skills. While the child is struggling to correctly pronounce the sentences, he is losing comprehension. Instead of reading the passages for content and interest, he reads to "decode." I can think of nothing less interesting than decoding a page, or more, of foreign text, word by word. It is no wonder to me why so many children become uninterested or put-off by literature. If reading because a forceful and painful process of right and wrong, no one can appreciate the rich content within the words. The words on the page are only a gateway into the reason for the book; children should read for excitement, new ideas, enjoyment, experiences, and knowledge. We should always be mindful of the message we give our children as we correct their speech, or mispronounced word in a story. Keep in mind that children are malleable, and making the right impression could make or break their attitudes towards literacy for life.