Literacy, as defined by Webster, means the state of being literate; to be educated, cultured, having knowledge or competency. At King School, the definition of literacy goes even farther as the School looks to empower students as fully literate in the Age of Information. Many educators today, including Sir Ken Robinson, argue for the value of cross-disciplinary learning through projects, inquiry, and collaboration. Amy Vorenberg, King’s Head of Lower School, agrees that “we must redefine how we build literacy skills at this time, taking seriously the responsibility to give children knowledge and competency in every area of schooling.” With content all around us, with children having access to smartphones and other digital tools, Vorenberg states that it’s crucial to build a wider range of literacies that help children understand their world and master more complex skills.
While traditional literacy skills are important, today, equally important are skills to read and write in the digital age. Students at King learn to code because it is a new, essential language. Seeing mathematics as another literacy means building foundational skills where children understand concepts behind the calculations. Hands-on activities allow children to manipulate materials and build models to gain deeper understanding. “We don’t skim the surface and memorize at King,” Vorenberg explains, “we take time to explore, ask questions, make interesting observations, and develop deeper mastery.”
To be literate, one learns how to read and to write. King students are empowered to be fully literate, not only as readers, but also as writers who use a multitude of tools to express their understanding. Children become facile writers with pencils and pens, and with keyboards and digital tablets. They express their understandings as they “write” with paint brushes and building blocks. Speaking and listening to others help round out the literacies of learning, as we grow to appreciate a range of diverse ideas and opinions.
Dr. Lilian Katz, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois and an expert in the field of elementary education, states “curriculum should help children make deeper and fuller understanding of their own experience.” Vorenberg adds that “every learner at King brings incredibly interesting ideas and experiences to their learning. As a community that cares deeply about every child, teachers craft literacy experiences in every realm – academic and social – to build fully literate graduates who are ready for their learning journey!”
Dr. Katz suggests that school-age children should apply their developing basic literacy skills in purposeful ways. In King’s Lower School Makerspace, students get the tools and encouragement for this type of application. For example, after reading the book Stone Fox, Grade 3 students consider the book’s characters and habitat. Then students collaborate, plan, strategize, and design prototypes of dog sled models. Students test and redesign the small-scale sleds to maximize qualities necessary for winning the race. At King, engaging a children as readers, scientists, mathematicians, and artists, through hands-on, purposeful problem solving, broadens and deepens learning. Plus, importantly, it’s more fun to learn this way!