#006 Incidental Learning: Finding opportunities to read and learn through living life.

Decorative text: Learning it its own reward. You don't necessarily need a curriculum and a syllabus and gold stars at the end of an arbitrary activity because the experience of doing things and being engaged in literacy in a real world context has big rewards of its own. - Nanci Nott, The Literate Child PodcastOriginally we titled this episode Incidental Literacy but we really broaden that reach to the many varied learning opportunities that are available in the world around us so I decided to call it Incidental Learning. This week, Nanci and Rebecca share their experiences with opportunities to read and learn that occur simply by living a culturally rich and engaged life.

Some of the places we find learning happens:

While Grocery Shopping:

Mathematics (weight and measure, price and money, addition & subtraction, multiplication, and percentages) and Literacy (brochures, signs, packaging, labels, shopping lists, etc.)

Searching The Internet Search:

Google is brilliant at helping you with your spelling; it uses predictive algorithms to adapt your search words if you’ve made spelling mistakes and is a strongly language based tool for finding the information you want to find.

Street Signs & Commercial Branding:

Every kids usually knows exactly which twin golden arches mean, but even beyond prominent logo imagery the world is full of words and language written in our environment that we can engage with.

When Cooking Meals:

This is true when it comes to using recipes as that incorporates wonderful opportunities for literacy, but cooking also involves aspects of mathematics (weigh and measure, temperature, time, etc.), science (affect of mixing ingredients, affect of temperature change on elements, etc.) and can also incorporate aspects of health and languages other than English.

Playing Family Games:

Board games, card games, even table top role playing games, etc. can be powerful opportunities to incorporate incidental learning and literacy into a child’s life. In this episode we talk about our experience with Family Feud Disney Edition and Australian Animals Trivia.

Playing I Spy Type Games:

We have a lot of fun with language, words, and vocabulary when we’re walking, driving, or catching the train by playing I Spy. You can also adapt the I Spy game to use phonetic sounds instead of letter names, include written words instead of just objects they’ve seen, use descriptive terms (adjectives and adverbs) (eg. green tree rather than tree).

Getting Mail:

This could be cards or letters, while we don’t mention it on the show it could also include penpals! And while we were talking about tangible mail that comes through the old fashioned postal system, you could also use Email communications as effective incidental literacy. In the episode we talk about Little Passports and Science Expeditions Kits which Rebecca and Nanci both love.

Visiting Libraries:

Libraries are fantastic community spaces perfectly suited to learning opportunities. They host activities and workshops, free access to books, and offer empowered opportunities to for children to use their autonomy to choose their own reading materials.

Visiting Museums, Theatre, and Science Venues:

Nanci and Rebecca absolutely LOVE the rich learning experiences that come from attending live theatre performances, museum exhibits, and science venues such as Scitech. In this episode we talked about The Sound of Picture Books, The Witches One Man Show, The Book Binder, The Lion King Stage Musical, and Erth’s Prehistoric Creatures. The theatre is also a great place for book to stage adaptations so there is a fantastic opportunity to really couple literacy with real world engagement in story and language.

Using Subtitles For Movies and T.V.:

This is a great, easy way to instantaneously incorporate more literacy into your child’s life. Simply turn on the assistive Subtitle feature on your television and your viewing will now incorporate the written word with the spoken or auditory aspects of what your child watches. It can also be a powerful way to learn other languages.

Listening to Music and Lyrics:

Lyrical music is powerful literacy. Songs can also incorporate powerful story telling. And while we didn’t mention it in the episode it also is wonderful for practising and developing memorisation. Incorporating dance and music also develops both fine and gross motor skills!

Through Discussion & Communication between humans:

Talking with your child, or giving your child opportunities to talk with other people including adults and children is a very powerful way to develop their language and literacy skills. In fact, while as parents and teachers we can be resistant to allowing interaction between children (particularly siblings) to become too heated, arguments, squabbling, and debate are actually very powerful communication experiences for developing strong language skills. Children should be given plenty of opportunity for verbal language rather than focusing so exclusively on their written language skills as their means of expressing themselves. Children with reading and writing disabilities can express their logic and intelligence in powerful, impassioned language through verbal communication. (And teachers, please remember this! While it’s important that children can have focused quiet time in the classroom and that noise levels are managed, it’s equally important that students be encouraged to talk and share with their peers. Learning environments are significantly enriched when students can learn from each other and have their learning supported and scaffolded by their more able friends.)

And Playing Video Games:

One we didn’t mention in this episode but talk about in our Video Games episode which is coming soon is the power of video games as a tool for literacy learning! We’ll talk about that more in that show and I’ll update these show notes to include the link when that episode is live.

A Note On Sensory Processing Disorder

Finally, there is an excellent part of this episode where Nanci and Rebecca talk about Sensory Processing Disorder and its effect on venturing out into the world to experience incidental learning. Rebecca shares the experiences her son, Joshua, has when visiting the cinema or theatre and some of the accommodations they need to incorporate to help reduce his discomfort. We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming episode.

Join the Community!

This week we invite you to share your own experiences and ask:
What kinds of incidental learning and literacy have you discovered? What do you do to find literacy around the world that you’re in and how do your children engage with language and literacy incidentally without even trying?
Join our Facebook Discussion or email us at tlc@aulexic.com.au.

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