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Chapter Eight: Middle Childhood

Section 2:  Intrinsic Interest


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Los Lupenos performing a Mexican Dance at the San Jose America Festival, July 4, 1998.


If a student is interested in the subject at hand, one becomes one's own teacher; if one is not interested, one becomes the teacher's opponent --with both teacher and student winding up as losers. Presenting material at the appropriate cognitive level is essential. Beyond this, the teacher must examine the individual differences in student's interests. Some educators recommend waiting until the interest appears before actually trying to teach the material. There is value to this approach, but it should not be taken too far with foundation skills.



Let us take the example of reading. Many parents are too eager to teach their young children, and even infants, to read. On the other hand, a non-reader at age ten is in trouble. At some point it is the responsibility of the teacher to "sell" the child on the importance of fundamental skills.



A teacher/salesperson must be sensitive to the child's perspective. Our reading-language system is, in a sense, arbitrary and unconnected with the physical and social reality which are of more immediate concern to the child. A line to the effect that adults have to read may ring a bit hollow.



If a teacher selects a subject of interest to the child, and shows how reading can help one find out more about that subject -- well, maybe that is a reason to read. Sometimes one day's thoughts can be recorded (with the help of the teacher); if the writing is taken home where the parents can read it with interest; if the writing is taken back to school where the teacher rereads it the next day, and maybe the next day, the child learns that writing and reading help communicate thoughts to others and preserve those thoughts for the future -- another reason to read and write. Thus, by centering on the interests a child has already developed, the teacher can expand them to other basic skills, including all of the traditional "three R's."







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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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