Olivia Saracho

OLIVIA SARACHO:

  My name is Olivia Saracho and I’m at the University of Maryland at College Park, and I’m a Professor of Education. 

Okay.  Literacy – you know, first of all, literacy of reading, it’s for enjoyment and information and we want children to be able to enjoy and be able to acquire information.  We want them to know that literacy is for meaning, and we want them to be able to learn how to read in a natural context.  And the best way to get all of that is doing a play – doing a play session because they are able to learn and internalize it, and experience it, and act it out, and – and so that everything comes in and makes meaning to them and they are able to understand it.  Within play you can also incorporate reading and writing concepts.  For example, if they’re playing in the dramatic play area, if you put in writing materials so they can write a shopping list.  If they’re playing in the block area they can – they can –  they can create or build block cities, or they can create a mural of their neighborhood and they’re able to write down the streets or – or label the little cities that they ride, so all – all of that can be incorporated.  Another example is Bernard talked about a sink – sink and float, and so that you can also include a checklist where they put – they put an item in the water and they can check off whether it sinks or it floats, and later on they can discuss about it so that when they have their discussion during sharing time or during their evaluation they can look at their chart and talk about.  So that – literacy can be incorporated in a lot of these play centers.

They’re part of their lives.  What you want it is you want – what you want is you want them to become independent readers and the way they become independent readers is by knowing that this is part of their lives and by using play it becomes a natural context and they see the importance of reading and the functions of reading so that when they – when they see a word or – or – or they start playing they know why it’s important for them to read.

I think it’s – it’s suppose to be the same because what you want is when you bring a second language learner or second English – second language speaker, that person brings a culture that is very different from the one in the school and when you bring in their culture into the play area, such as having culture boxes, and actually bringing in their setting, their family setting, into the play area that becomes natural and also becomes a natural context.  And so if they can associate even just the family names – you want them to learn, for example, you talked about phonics and letters, so they can start associating the names of the – the family members with the letters that they’re learning in school.

Exactly.  So learning the word tortilla, you know, it’s not just tortilla.  You know, and that it begins with the same sound as ‘t’, you know, and so that – that there will be – there will be – the letters are the same either – they’re similarly the same, except if you’re having Asian children then the – yeah, the characters are different.

Well the first thing I would suggest to you, you need to find out about the community and the culture and what are the things that are important to them, and then after you do that then you start bringing those things and bringing them – bring those up in – in to – in to the classroom.  And, you know if you are a preschool teacher I would talk to the principal and just say, “Why don’t we tell these – these teachers and tell them a little bit about their community during their inservice or the week of working day.  Why don’t we make culture boxes that – that resemble their – that resemble their neighborhood.”  If nothing else, they could start with murals that – that go around the house that are very similar around their schools so that they have – they make a mural of their street, uh, the bakery, anything that’s important to them.

Okay, what is it is that even – even though – even if they’re not second language learners, every culture or every area in – in the city is very different and you need to – and if you want them to read or you want them to learn you want them to learn concepts.  They have to bring something and they have to feel good themselves and they have to know that they’re neighborhood is good.  And you start by bringing that into the classroom and start from the known into the unknown so that once that – that you bring that in this is something they actually know.  You know, the bakery or – or um – you know, or the – the grocery store, the gasoline, or anybody that they actually know and then you start teaching their names so they start seeing their letters, they can start associating that with other kinds of letters, and other kinds of names, and they look at context, they look at pictures.  And they can even bring pictures of their store or something like that so that you can start showing about it and talking about it, having a lot of interactions.  And this is a way of brining the children together because they all belong to the same community.

I’m not sure I know what to say but (interruption) okay.  Let me just say – let me just share this.  Uh, when I was doing – when I was doing a study of culture, one of the things that I found is, for example, if the children come in into an environment they have never seen.  First of all, if they’ve never been – if they have never been in school it’s something that – that – that they don’t know and they go through 4 stages.  The first stage is bewilderment.  And so you bring them into a place where there – there are all these strange things and there’s this language they don’t understand.  They go through a stage of bewilderment.  Then the next stage that they go through is rejection because they see that whatever you have in the classroom, charts for example, you start teaching about nutrition and you have charts, you have the bread, you have the milk, and there you sit tortillas and beans and – and cheese.  So then they see the chart that this is – and then what’s the worst thing that you can say is “What did you have for breakfast?”  And what are – what are the children going to say?  Even if they had beans and tortillas they’re going to say, “I had break and milk” because that’s what is acceptable.  So then the – the next stage would be rejection.  And then once you start bringing things, as soon as they start feeling comfortable, they might – but they may never get to the third step, which is assimilations.  And that is, when they go home they might like the music, they might like the beans that they’re eating, so they will eat them at home, but they will never tell it.  And so what they do is they put – what we call it is they put patches on them, and if you’re really –  what we’re really would like for the second language teachers to be actually – we want them to take them to the fourth stage where it’s actually they – children become acculturated.  And that’s where they can function in one language, in one culture, and another.  Where they can easily go and make the transition from one to another, but they actually feel good about both of them.

I’m very excited about cognitive styles because it’s really a way of receiving a situation, a way of responding to people, a way of solving problems.  And although it involves the intellectual, uh, line it goes beyond Pershay because it includes the effective domain and it also includes the personality of the child.  For example, we call them feel dependent and feel independent, and in reality what it is – it’s – a field independent child is really a social child and some children are very social and some children are – feel independent, which have been very analytic.  And for the longest time (unintelligence) started in the basement of Brooklyn Hall in – in the 1930’s and (unintelligence) and what he did is he started in a class – in a room.  An in order for them to find out whether people were social or analytic he would sit them in a chair and put a crooked char, and so then the – the more the individual would put it in a straight line then the more – the more analytic that person was, and the less – the less – the more crooked chair was it was the more – the more, um, the more social that person was.  And so it’s – as he developed his research he became to know that people who are more analytic look for detail and they had – they was more analytic.  And so for the longest time we always wanted children to be – feel independent because they had analytic, they could do math, and they could do very well academically.  And so we looked down at the social – at social children and we really didn’t focus on them.  But the problem is – and if you look – if you look around your colleagues you will find that there are some people who are very social and yet – and then there are people who are very analytic.  They can keep a job because they’re smart and their analytic, but sometimes they get let go because they can’t get – they can’t make good decisions because they can’t get along with people.  And so what we actually want is we want students to become flexible in their thinking.  They have the social skills and they have the analytic skills so that when the time requires, if they need to work – when they’re working in a situations (unintelligible) their children for life and so when their actually working or they’re actually functioning in a – in society there will be times that they need social skills to be able to do a task, but they also have to be – have analytic skills to be able to analyze the task and do it correctly.  So ultimately what I would like is for teachers to learn to become what I like to call – my term is “cognitive flexibility.”  I know Ramirez and Costenella, they call it “bicognitive development” because you go into both, but I like to – for them to be flexible.  And I also want teachers to be trained to be flexible so that they’re able to deal with both students.  I’ve done studies of the match and mismatch of teachers and children and what happens with them and a lot you know (unintelligible) a lot of it will say that they have to be met, but that’s not really society.  When you work – when you want – when you’re actually in society their – you’re going to have people who are different from you and we want children to ultimately – we’re preparing children for life, not to be able to past first grade, kindergarten, or high school.  Ultimately we want them to be independent people and be successful people.

Okay.  Usually people who are analytic are able to do better in literacy and numerousy because they have analytic skills.  And so because they have the analytic skills they’re able to decode words, they’re able to attack the word, and they’re able to identify words.  So they should be the ones who are actually – can do well.  But the problem is that if you look at the theory on cognitive style that they say that if you present material in the social context then the field independent students would be able to – to – to be able to identify the word.  So instead of putting these abstract words or these abstract tasks, which is really what we do when we teach reading and we need to be able to become – as teachers we need to become flexible in our thinking so that we can use both with – with – we provide both types of strategies so that they’re social and they’re analytic.  And hopefully what we do is we start to teach – we have a social child, we start teaching the child in a social way and once the child feels comfortable then can we – we can bring the analytic way so that the child will be able to identify the words in both – both context.

Yeah.  Well, uh, let’s focus on the family literacy.  What we did was um – we had um their – we used – we used photographs, so there was discussions of photographs.  Families could um family – family trees and so that although there were discussions, they’re interactions.  What you want in – in literacy is you want them to develop their analytic skills and so when they start solving situations they start, uh, developing vocabulary.  I mean all of these things contribute to literacy and – and one of things, for example, in – in the families either they’re doing – they’re making lemonade.  They have to identify the ingredients; they have to write the recipes.  There – there’s a sequence in it.  Here, let me give you another example.  If you – you have the – something that everybody knows it’s “Little Red Riding Hood.”  Okay.  One of it – the literacy requirements is sequencing.  Okay?  You can – you can talk – you can tell the story – you don’t necessarily have to tell.  A lot of story telling is – is important.  You know, the traditions of a family we here storytelling, that’s also a part of literacy.  But in doing that you look at the story structure which is, you know, the setting, the characters, and even though it’s – our family is part of that.  Or if you take, for example, “Little Red Riding Hood,” you talk about the story and then you put it into sequence.  You can also put it into singing.  For example, what is the first thing that you do with the “Little Red Riding Hood?”  The little girl goes out to the grandmother’s to take the cookies.  The next thing is they meet uh – they meet with the Big Bad Wolf.  So because you’re dealing with young children you do not – you try to focus on the number of sequences they can do first and then you can put it into a song like (singing) and you can put it into any music, any – “My Bonnie…” – anything that’s – that’s – that’s simple for them.  Once they start do – they start getting the sequence of three you can start adding more sequences.  For example, you have “The Little Red Hen,” you can add like four.  You know (singing).  There’s four sequences so you could start adding it.  You can do – you can ask them to illustrate it so that you can divide the piece of paper into 3 parts, into parts, and they’re actually doing the drawing.  So that’s part of literacy, that’s part of sequencing, and also the characters, the story structure, and doing the elements with that.

Okay, the thing that – the every day activities that they do – they do things.  Like when they’re having a family time, you know, maybe they’re eating together.  They have a discussion.  They share ideas.  That’s again storytelling because they’re talking about the day activities.  Or “Did you know about Uncle So-and-so, you know, he had surgery or he got – he got fired,” but there’s something that’s going on and there’s something that’s being conceptualized.  If – if – if “Uncle So-and-so may have been fired and what he’s going to do about it, he’s got a family,” there’s a solution.  There’s problem solving, which is uh – and analyzing “How can we help?”  And that’s part of the solution.  They also read the TV Guide.  You know, they read catalogs.  Uh, they look at recipes.  They go to church together.  What do they do?  They – they go through their religious material, they sing songs, and – and – or they look at the bulletin.  School menus – you know, they – they get the school menus.  All of these are daily activities that happen at home and yet they do it.  The thing that we need to do as teachers is we need to bring that into the schools and try to reinforce the concept that’s being taught because the parents do it but they don’t know that they’re doing it.  And if we try to help them to plan it so that – either looking at the TV Guide and we’re teaching the letter ‘t’ at school, or they can look for letter ‘t’ on things like TV Guide, you know, and pulling out the fact that TV Guide begins with the letter ‘t’, and so their – that can be reinforced.  One of the things that troubles me is that teachers send like flashcards or dull material, and you know, when the children come home they need to have quality time with their parents.  And what they need to do is instead of spending time in these drill and practice activities, learning the spelling words, spelling the words, writing the spelling words which is boring and dull, the child has been in this terrible – you know, the classroom the whole day.  He wants to come home and one, have fun, and have a quality of – of interaction with – with their family members.  So if you provide activities that are fun and their interesting it can reinforce what’s being taught at school and yet at the same time they’re learning and there’s that quality of interaction with their families.

Okay, uh, for you to use in a classroom or for you to use with families?  (interruption)  Okay.  What I prop boxes or something that I love, culture boxes.  They’re prop boxes but they’re – they’re with a culture.  Something that – that is meaningful to them.  Phonetic units.  I would start reading a phonetic unit.  Something that they – that they – that they might – that would be – that something would be of interest, and you know, once they know the children the children can suggest what they want to do, even something as the bakery.  They can visit the bakery.  They can talk about the bakery.  Then they can come back and they can write about it and they can – and they can write stories about the bakery, have a box, you know, about the bakery, and then let them create their own box about the bakery themselves so that there’s all of that – all of that reading – reading and writing.  Now if you’re talking about actually teaching strategies you can – you can start teaching, for example, we’re talking about phonics.  You can start talking about phonetical awareness and so you actually start to look like – you know, you hear children saying, “Anna, Anna, Anna, banana.”  We can come up with words that’s telling you automatically that they’re listening to sounds, and so you can start bringing in – and you can start brining in riddles like “Mr. Smith,” uh, you know, uh you can start saying – if you were teaching the letter ‘s’, for example, that particular day you can say, you know, “Tomorrow we’re going to visit the bakery and his name is uh – it begins the same sound as the letter ‘s’, and it’s Mr.” you know, you give riddles so they can say, “Smith.”  And then they say (unintelligible) start bringing up and you can – you can say, “Well, can you think of other names that begin with the same – the same sound as the letter ‘s’?”  They can say “Sally,” they can say, “Sammy,” and they can start coming up with the same thing.  You can start telling stories about “Mr. Smith is at the bakery shop.  He sells…” – if you’re talking about context or cues and “He sells these types of breads,” and they’d start filling in the blanks, so what you’re starting – you’re starting to initiate actual contextual cues, but you’re doing it in a riddle kind of thing and soon though you start – you start showing them, you know, how to do contextual cues, how to look for clues within words.  Then as they start moving along then you can start – if it’s – if it’s um, a croissant that they’re looking for then you can start – and they know the letter sound of – of ‘c’.  Then you can say, “He has…” and then put a line, or put a ‘c’, or begin “Can you think of a – of a piece of bakery that Mr. Smith has that begins with the same sound as – as the letter ‘c’,” so they can identify croissant or they can actually see the letter ‘c’, so that you start that way with something that’s meaningful to them.  And never, never ask them to read a text or read something that they do not know the language or the meaning of it.  Because if they don’t have comprehension it is not reading and you want them to get information and you want them to get meaning.

I would have the same answer as – the same answer as when – when you start teaching reading.  Okay?  And – and, you know, it use to be that a long time ago it – it – reading would start when they hit 6 – 6 years of age, and so what do we find out now?  There is no right age.  You do it when they’re ready, when they have the pre-requisite skills, when they have – when they can understand both – both meanings and they can understand one language or the other.  And many times – and this is something – this is – I know you’re going to ask me about this at – about what is something that annoys me, but this – this does annoy me to no end because many times just because a child has a Spanish-speaking name, it doesn’t mean that Spanish is his language and the teacher has to find out where – what is the child’s name.  You know, my niece, you know, her name is (speaks Spanish) and her language is English, and when they first tried to put her in school they tried to put her in a Spanish-speaking class just because her last name is (speaks Spanish).  And I think we have to be very careful about that.  She would not be able to learn to – to write in Spanish because that’s not her language.  Her language is English.  And I think there are different levels where children are.  Some are very fluent in Spanish, some are very fluent in English, and some are in between, and some are mixed.  So I think that’s a hard – a hard question, but I think the teacher has to be sensitive enough just like teachers of reading have to be sensitive enough that once the children have the pre-requisites skills and they’re able to understand they have to have – they have to have the language, the pre-requisite skills, and they have to be able to have the – in a way the sounds and understand that – what language is which.  My ideal situation of a bilingual program is where you have both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking children because children learn more from each other then they do from teachers and if you – if they start providing activities and assignments then they’re able to do the – the language learning of the Spanish and the English together and they know that when they’re talking with Johnny and when they’re talking with Pepe, you know, that –  that it’s different and they get together and they learn the language together and they learn reading together.

Well, I feel so strongly about – about – which one?  I mean you have to narrow the topic.  (interruption)  Well – oh, there’s so many.  I think the – the main one, I think it’s – maybe this one is one that maybe – we might have spoken – I think the first thing is we need – we as teachers need to accept the, um, the children’s language and culture.  And just because they have a language and culture that’s different from the schools we shouldn’t look down at what – at what they’re doing, but we have to respect it and – and uh I think I would like for teachers – if I were teaching a classroom of second language teachers I would like to maybe start with – with good enough definition of culture and – and let them know that – that, you know, it’s culture is different based on clothing, architecture, food, and it all is very good.  Yeah, and so we have to be accept – accepted – uh, accepted in our – respectful of the culture and we have to let children know that – that their culture is good enough as – as the schools.  And then once we start from there then bringing it in and use – using that as a teaching technique and – and uh – but many times we make the children know that just because their culture is different and the schools is different that it’s not accepted.

The main thing is that I don’t think – I think it’s very integrated within it because child rearing practices are part of child development and just like child rearing practices develop so does – so does, uh, the development of the child, and that’s part of it.  And so the relationship is the – based on what the children learn, that’s the way they develop.  And – and so – the other thing that – that I think it’s probably also – probably my soap box too is that we as teachers and educators, we need to also understand it’s just like there’s an evolution of everything else.  There’s also an evolution of culture.  In other words, we’re studying culture that happened many years ago.  The culture – society has changed.  We are – have technology, we have other – we have television, uh, we have computers.  And we also have to understand that when we look at a Spanish-speaking culture or – or a Japanese culture there’s some evolution that has taken place just like Darwin’s evolution of men and I’d like for teachers to know that that’s also related to child development.

Well, for example, in some families the – the – one of the rearing practices is that the older – the older child is responsible.  I mean I – that was part of my culture and even though – I mean for a grown up I still feel responsible for my brother and sister and when we were going to school as – as – as young children, uh, because I was the oldest I was – we were away from home –you know, when we were at home we had the protection of our mom and dad.  When we were in school it was my responsibility and that was – that was my major responsibility.  If my sister got into trouble I had to go out there and protect her and make sure that she was well taken care of, the same thing as my brother.  Now we’re growing up, we’re old people, and I still feel the same way and I feel the same responsibility.  And even though, you know, we’re independent; we live in different cities but if – if my sister says there’s a problem I would be there in a second.  And I still feel that responsibility and they still – still look up to me and they say, “I need help with this.  I need help with that.  Can you help me with this?” 

Okay, what that would mean – for example, one of the things that happens is when the children come into the schools – and this is very much a part of the school, they want people to become independent and become on their own, and they cannot – the thing is that they cannot become independent (unintelligible) for example, they like – children like to help others because that’s part of their culture.  You know, there’s Johnny who can’t – who can’t write or is having trouble with reading and there’s – there’s Popito who know – who – that’s part of – of helping each other.  One of the cultural, uh, things is that we have to help others and so he’s helping Popito with whatever problem and – and the teacher wants to be able – for – for that student to be able to do it by themselves without the help.  And then the other student gets – gets punished for something that’s part of his family.