The tiger came to tea again and again, mostly when the child sat in her nightie on the kitchen radiator, which was where she’d get her bedtime story. Like anyone else, children love to repeat the things they like. We’re not talking about copying here. Children don’t copy. Not in my view. They relive. They internalise. They extend. This picture has many elements which do not appear on the original book cover. Written with a pencil In the top right corner of the picture there is, for example, the dedication – in French – to her family; pour mama et papa. Strictly speaking, the dedication’s in French and German (Mama is German, maman would be French).
The trilingual text to the right (smiley for English, heart for French, sun for German) provides a summary of the key statement I drew from this sample of writing: trial and error are essential to learning strategies. It’s not only ok to change your mind, you’ll probably need to do so several times. I’m not just talking about the immediacy of editing: making sure your Ps and Qs look nice. I’m talking about understanding. About layers and layers of experience which contribute to meaning making. At the end of the day, and despite the many theories out there, no one really knows exactly what sticks, how, when and why. But by the learner’s subsequent reactions, we may recover traces of what has stuck. Some time later, when reading this text, its author commented with some displeasure:
‘the to should’ve been in a different colour.’
Why did she say that? She had become aware that to tea are two words, not one, and that if she were to be consistent, these two words would each need to be represented by a different colour, in keeping with the previous words in the book’s title. We see that by revisiting the text, changes take place in the child’s mind as what she knew then becomes linked, updated, to accommodate (aspects of) what she knows now.
When the child learned that I would be coming to her school to do research with (and ultimately for) the children, her first reaction was one of horror: but mummy, you’ll see all our mistakes!
No I won’t. I’ll learn lots. And lots.