How Do Children Direct Their Own Learning?

How Do Children Direct Their Own Learning?

How Do Children Direct Their Own Learning?

One child and I are working on phonological awareness together, which means he is learning how the sounds of language get translated into the letters that spell words.  His parents tell me that he likes to type his name on their computer and phones, but he is not yet interested in spelling words.
One day, when we go into my office, the child’s eyes land on my computer and he asks to type something.  I didn’t expect to work on letter sounds with him today, but I’m curious to know what he wants to type.  I increase the font size, and he stands up at my desk to put his fingers on the keyboard, tapping all of the keys as fast as he can.  “This is how my mom types,” he says. “Fast!”
I ask the child what he wants to type, thinking that he would want to type his name or another word that he knows, but he is not interested in my suggestions.  Maybe I misunderstood his plan, or maybe his plan changed.  He alternates typing faster and slower, mesmerized by the scrolling letters appearing on screen.

I wonder if this activity has the potential to meet any of this child’s speech-language therapy goals, given that he is not interested in typing actual words.  I start to think about giving a one-minute warning and transitioning us to another activity, but I ask myself to hold off and settle into this moment and give it a longer chance.  I remind myself that this child, through his exploration and play, will be able to find whichever skill he is ready to learn next.

The child is still typing on and on, and I see the page count at the bottom of the screen increase to six pages, seven pages, eight pages, as he plays with running his finger across whole rows of letters.  I move so that I can see the scrolling screen that is mesmerizing him still, and suddenly a word on the page catches my eye.
“Oh!  You spelled a word!” I say.  He pauses and I highlight the word.  “You typed the word we,” I say.

The child glances at what I’m showing him and puts his hands back on the keyboard to keep typing, but I know I’ve caught his interest.  His letters appear quickly in a long random string on the screen, and I watch with him.  “Oh, you made another word,” I tell him, using the mouse to highlight it.  “Toe, like the toes on your feet.”  He glances again and resumes typing.  The random string of letters continues until --

“Wow!  Look at that!  You made the word frog!” I’m surprised and excited that his random typing created the name of an animal - one of his favorite things.  He lets me highlight the word and looks at me, interest on his face.  “How do you spell pig?” he asks.
I sound out the spelling and he carefully scans for each letter and presses them gently.  “How do you spell dolphin?” he asks.  He listens to me and types the long word out meticulously.  “Okay, I’m done,” he says, and we leave the computer to find a different activity.

Alaina Kelley, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech & Language Pathologist


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