by Tom Garfield, Superintendent
1. In keeping with Dorothy Sayer’s treatise, The Lost Tools of Learning, we believe that there is a historical and educational precedent for what we call the “Pre-Polly” stage in addressing children*s learning characteristics. This stage manifests itself during the five to eight year-old period. It necessarily and appropriately precedes the “full” Poll-Parrot or Grammar stage, the first level of the ancient Tnvium. Historically children were not considered ready for formal education until they reached the age of about eight years old. (Hence, Sayers’ allusion to “starting” with students who could already “read, write, and cipher” in her hypothetical school. She was merely assuming that the children would have learned those skills prior to beginning the Poll-Parrot stage. It behooves us to examine how best to prepare the students for that stage. )
2. This Pre-Polly stage is a time when students need to develop mental categories and concepts that are requisite for the full Grammar instruction, beginning in about third grade. For example, before the students memorize addition facts (which they could probably do), they need to form the concept of numbers and their values in their minds. The written symbol – 2 – should be equated with two “somethings” in their thinking lest further math work lack a foundation in reality. The same foundational approach applies to reading; the students could memorize words (as in the Whole Language approach), but instead we ensure they equate the written symbol, – A – with an aural sound through training in phonics. In a sense, we are helping them develop mental “cubby holes” for subsequent related data. Future knowledge needs a place that fits with old knowledge, i.e. the cubby holes.