Why It Works: The Magic of Consistency

cake batterI grew up with the most delightful sorts of home life… sewing projects, interesting household chores (my wise mother taught me to do even the least enjoyable tasks, in a fun way!), helping to take care of little ones (cooking brown rice, making milk, et al) and of course, cooking and baking.

I can’t remember when I made my first cake (under supervision, of course!), but it was definitely before I became a teenager… probably around 9 or 10 years of age.  Somewhere along the line, I discovered the word consistency on the recipe card.

“Mummy, what is con-sis-ten-cy?” (worried that it was an ingredient I had left out)

“Consistency just means the texture of the cake batter.  Whether is smooth or lumpy.”

First exposure. :)

Years later, I came to understand consistency in a different light.  It’s one of the words I use often nowadays when talking about early childhood education.

Consistency (n): invariant in the performance of something

Teaching reading is not a mysterious undertaking.  It is the most common sense thing I’ve ever done in my life… besides adopting a can-do attitude. :)  All you need is a solid understanding of how children learn, particularly how they learn to read, a roadmap of how you will use that knowledge to teach them, and a commitment to consistency.  The experience, you will pick up along the way though having some before you start is always a good idea! :D

WHAT THIS MEANS IN PRACTICE

As far as I’m concerned, consistency means three things:

  1. Consistent vocabulary.  Decide on the keywords you are going to use for teaching, and use them.  Don’t try out new words or introduce synonyms ever other week. (Eg, if you are going to call letters a, e, i, o & u vowels, stick to that term).
  2. Consistent methods.  Find the best way to teach the material, and stick to those methods.  (Eg, if you are going to teach children long vowels using the a-consonant-e method, limit yourself to it.  The children need not learn it any other way.  Remember, it’s not the goal for them to learn all the methods, and it only causes confusion!)
  3. Consistent expectations.  Make sure your expectations are achievable and reasonable, and never lower that standard.  (Eg, if you expect the children to recognize all the special sounds you’ve taught them that day, work towards that goal and never lower the standard by allowing some to slip by unnoticed.  Point them out.  What you sow is what you will reap!)

And a few other things I am particular about being consistent with:  Stick to your roadmap (this presupposes that you have a good workable, tested roadmap) and keep practicing (and practice does not = tedium.  Good teachers know ways around that!).

  • It builds confidence.  Two steps to read a word (beginning reading).  Mark the vowels, circle the special sounds.  Even if the word looks intimidating, all you have to do is follow the two steps... and you already know those two steps!
  • It cements knowledge.  By consistently marking vowels, children internalize the two-vowel rule:  when there are two vowels in a word, the first one says its long sound and the second one is silent.
  • It establishes absolutes.  Because of the repeated exposure to it, children come to expect that two vowels will always indicate a long sound and a silent second vowel.

Sometimes, it’s not the method; it’s the approach!  The longer I teach, the more I am convinced that even the best practices would not work if we are forever jumping from one to another.  Patience is genius, and the patience behind consistency is the magic that makes it work!

Few things are instant.  Reading is not instant.  It’s something you develop as you grow and learn.  What children need to expedite that development is a consistent approach to it!  So remember the magic word:  CONSISTENCY!

Thank you for reading!

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