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Posts tagged ‘reading’

Illiterate for a week

I’m in Bulgaria, and I cannot speak or read the language. Over the summer I went to Brazil and I did pretty well learning a bit of Portuguese. In the end I could understand some and say some and that made it really fun and quite navigable.

In the airport before travelling to Bulgaria, far too late, I had a look for a Duolingo type programme and found this one, which helpfully gives you an intro to the alphabet as a first task and I was overloaded. I had thought I could pick up a few phrases to speak and read. Have a look – and this is only half of the letters. You’ll see there are not only different, but also completely new sounds for an English speaker:

 

Simple things in everyday life bamboozled me. Getting a bus ticket. At the kiosk I handed over some cash, got a little piece of paper and a couple of minutes later meekly returned to the lady to ask, “where?” with hand gestures and the hope that she would reply. She said: SIX. (go to bus stop number 6) See if you could have guessed…

How many stops there were to the destination? One person said three and another said one. The website showed one, but then the bus stopped at a normal bus stop on the side of the road, not a station, so guesswork reigned. I wrote the description of the destination down in English, (with Latin lettering) – not Cyrillic. I wasn’t particularly worried, but I had no clue what was happening and no real way to ask.

This language barrier is no fault of the people here. There is no reason they should speak another language, but I should have studied their language. I can get from here to there by following shapes of roads on a map and yes, the magic of modern translators (for menus) is unprecidented. If I went grocery shopping I would be relying on familiarity and certainly would not buy any cleaning products or medicines. I would have no clue. In restaurants menus tend to have words, not pictures. PICTURES. That’s why Denny’s in America can serve anyone across the country. They use pictures and you don’t have to read.

I am just so glad that I can read and write in my own language. Here I gave my lovely host at the Arts Academy here a piece of paper to write some names of places and things on it, and she wrote them so I could read – I had to ask her to write them so she could read, so if I show to someone else, they will know.

I am really at the mercy of those around me and find myself looking at expressions, listening, and more listening, feeling myself mimic the sounds by making them discretely inside my mouth – baby learning. I’m doing baby learning. I cannot read, write, or speak the language: I am illiterate. Traversing geography has allowed me to experience this in a sudden and real way, and I am now aware of just how big a jump it would be to learn to read as an adult. That cannot be understated.

Makes the stories in the Horton & Freire book all the more meaningful, giving people agency and motivation and support. Hats off to those who help others learn.

Knowledge is recognising: Toward personal learning

This post covers notes from 80 pages (347-427) in Stephen Downs’ book Toward Personal Learning. I started reading the book and posting about it last summer; it was initially intended as a ‘Summer Book Club‘. I’m still chugging along, and after a few busy months I’ve carved time to do some reading and thinking. I particularly enjoyed reading these pages and what follows are the themes and quotations that stood out to me and a few short thoughts about them. In these pages Downes talks about learning models, understanding of some very core concepts, and really starts to dive into the why and what behind personal learning. (This post is a 6 min read; the book will take you longer – but it’s worth it!)

Let me begin with what should be an axiom painted graffiti style on the side of one of many learning institutions: ‘learning is not remembering’ p.348

Throughout the next 80 pages, Downes takes us on a detailed tour of different aspects of learning, understanding, and perspective. Read more

Reading outside the lines

Continuing my thoughts…. This is the second part of my post for the first two chapters of the book We make the road by walking by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. I am still doing this like an open can of brain, if you can imagine reading and someone eating alphabet soup as the thoughts are forming in your/my brain. It is a complete indulgence for me to allow myself time to think and an unbridled space in which to do it. My thought garden. (7 min read)

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A long and winding road

A conversation is something I relish, not chit-chat, not pleasantries, but a real conversation. I began my journey on this road slowly, because I read slowly, and actually I hear voices when I read – so a conversational book is completely perfect. My post about it is going to be notes, just because. The quotes below are things that struck me. When I was younger I used to buy two copies of books and sometimes cut out fantastic quotes. I remember both the top of p.105 of Sartre’s Being and nothingness, and p.84 of Great Expectations. That probably tells you something about me.

I found out about this book club about We make the road by walking  by Myles Horton and Paulo Friere in a very round-a-bout way and decided to have a read and join in. I purposefully did not read any posts before drafting this one. Bryan Alexander is the man at the centre of the book club, and you can read his first post about it. I didn’t want spoilers as I haven’t read the book before. Saying that, after I wrote this, I then looked at half a dozen posts and thought how lovely it was that people have all sorts of insights. I have notes and resonances, and glimpses. I will have more time to write after next week, and then may develop some of the themes and will certainly comment on other’s writing, if belatedly. Time is relative and flexible, I hope. Here we go: Read more

On repertoire: How do you know it?

This week’s topic is Repertoire, and the music we play whether we call it songs, pieces, repertoire – it is the stuff that serves as the vehicle for our musical communication with listeners, each other, and ourselves. In thinking about repertoire, we’re encouraged to look back and see our own development as musicians. How have you come to know the music you know? What was the first music you knew? Maybe it had nothing or little to do with your instrument. How did you get into the music of your instrument and did you use the same mechanisms to find music there as you might have for other listening or music you engaged with?

When you begin to think about it, it is fascinating, and as a teacher it will have relevance. You are beginning to focus on the learning and become aware of the processes that you have undertaken. Sometimes through happy chance we find ourselves on a great musical path, but often it is through the dedicated guidance, planning, and nurturing of others – parents, teachers, and fellow musicians.

I’ve already presented a few different topics there and I’d like to start with this one:

How do we come to know the music we know?

As a child, I grew up with records – LPs, 33s, 78s. Yes, we even had a Victrola (as well as the fancy hi-fi record player). These were a mix of classic songs from the 1930s – 1950s, a good dose of Jazz quartets and trios, a very few classical records (1812 overture), lots of folk music, and a couple of very cheesy Christmas albums – one man with a deep voice singing to an orchestral accompaniment, with a touch of sleigh bells in the background…  That was it. There was no piano in the house. There were no other instruments. Those records were magic.

That is a starting point. I remember walking around with a little radio and we would search the channels to find whatever there was – eager to hear new things. It still happens like that with much of pop music. People eagerly await the next single or album from an artist. When did that die with other styles of music? (responses please – that’s a real question, not just a rhetorical one) As a cellist my knowledge of music, certainly at the beginning, was very limited and nearly completely reliant on whatever the teacher gave me to learn. Having a background in the LPs in the sitting room and the pop songs on the radio didn’t help me to know about the cello, and in the beginning, my years of first position etudes didn’t come close to giving me a clue about the repertoire for the instrument. The first time I heard a cello concerto was when I was learning one. That is the wrong way around.

Now people aren’t reliant on the records in their house or the two channels that might have good reception on the radio. We have access to so many recordings it is really mindblowing. So the question – do we (and do our students) seek to expand what we know? Do you look for new music to play? That could be new old music – it doesn’t have to be modern. I think we do, but the impetus is different. Think about reading books. We are taught to search from a young age. Children are taken to libraries and talked through what there is. (How often do we start students by giving them a tour through great works for their instrument?) We are taught how to find it. We are encouraged to seek and read. And when we get proficient at the basics, we are allowed to have preferences and to suggest our own content.

I don’t like horror books. I prefer comedy or mysteries where I have to think.

Awesome!

If a young learner is asked what would they like to play/sing, would they have the same musical literary knowledge to say – I would like to do X because I enjoy that style or period or composer… It may be a different way of looking at it, and it may take more work on the teacher’s part, but think how empowering it could be for the student.

I wonder what is your  experience with learning? Do you learn music and musical repertoire with the same relish you read or the same enthusiasm you find a new tv show to follow? Or the same way you follow popular charts? I wonder why or why not? Perhaps through understanding how and what we do, we can take the best bits from all our learning and bring those together as tools so we can be the best facilitators and teachers to guide ourselves and others.

Quite aside from the class, musician and author Bill Benzon blogged about his Jazz education in a series of posts, and it is fascinating. He did it the right way around and in these posts he expresses a breadth of listening, learning, and understanding that is noteworthy. I recommend you definitely read Bill’s first post:

My Early Jazz Education 1: From the Firehouse to Louis Armstrong59229006_2fb282fe23_z

and if that sparks your interest, Bill is very articulate (in music and words) as he goes on in successive posts. He takes us through influential repertoire and how he came to it. I wonder if we could each do a similar thing? What shaped you? …if you are drawing some blanks, maybe it’s time to go to the virtual musical library and check out some tunes.

I have linked to Bill’s further posts on his education below, but am saving the last one for when we talk about observing lessons. You’ll have plenty to read and listen to with these first ones… enjoy! (image CC BY-NC by Allert Aalders)

My Early Jazz Education 2: Maynard, Miles, and Diz

My Early Jazz Education 3: Herbie Mann and Dave Brubeck

My Early Jazz Education 4: Thelonius Sphere Monk

My Early Jazz Education 5: Al Hirt and (again) Maynard

Featured image CC BY-NC-SA by Via Tsuji

Sunday musings on listening

I was thinking about #MUS654 Session 1 Task 1, these musings are about the difference between listening to something and reading that same material. Why is it so different? Is it really different? Let’s consider the different situations. (Featured image CC BY by Cristina L.F.)

Sound is all around us. It is something that we are immersed in and it cannot easily be shut out. Thinking about listening to a given speech or programme only requires us to be in the presence of the sound, and then to select and prioritise those sounds. As I type about this, I am suddenly aware of the competing sounds around me: footsteps, the neighbour’s TV through the wall, the creak of a shutting window, the tappity-tap of my typing, Read more