Teaching Efficient Reading

A concept is a process which helps a person to recognize similarities in otherwise diverse objects, situations or events. It is a cognitive organizing system which brings the pertinent features of past experiences to bear upon a present object or stimulus. In other words, it is the ability of the person to distill all of the essential similarities from a series of objects and events and see those similarities in an object or event which he has not seen before.

Suppose we are to teach a child about a tree-we give him one object as a representative of a tree-say, we point to a mango tree and say 'this is a tree'. A little later we may point to another tree, say, a coconut tree, and ask him 'what is that?' He has no tree. So if he does not say 'tree', we may think that the child has not paid attention or is not as bright as he should be. You may point out the fact that you have told him about a tree. So the child learns after a variety of experiences to see the similarities in the trees although the coconut tree looked different from the mango tree. He begins to generalize - or see that they stand straight-they have leaves, trunk, bark. Thus when he gets more and more acquainted with trees he comes to make thee generalizations and he comes to know that a tree is a tree, although it may have characteristics unlike any he has ever seen before. He will give those characteristics which are similar to all trees and leave out those characteristics which are not similar, e.g., the mango tree covers a lot of space whereas the coconut tree does not cover very much space. The mango tree has branches whereas coconut tree does not have. So this is how the concept is formed-the idea of taking all of the similarities from a body of diverse things and seeing them as having certain common family characteristics.

Some people are not able to generalize or form concepts easily. They are not able to recognize even in conversation ideas which are not very specific and explained. They are not able to see relevances. And when a person gives an example, the listener may not understand what the person is talking about, because he has a very narrow idea of the concepts that are involved in the conversation. He just does not see the common elements in the example which fit.

Teacher's Responsibility in Developing Concepts

A student really cannot get to the point of knowing about a subject area unless he can generalize on that area; has concepts about the subject. The teacher should help the students to classify, to organize, to unify ideas and details under generalized headings. This training will help the student to learn concepts more effectively.

Sometimes teachers fail to help the student to form concepts by failing to create a learning situation that is conducive to learning concepts. They make learning situations little discrete units and do not bring all of them together to show organization and how they fit together . For example, teaching phonics apart and separate from language is an illustration of poor concept teaching. Phonics should be taught as a part of the whole of language. The relationships between phonics and other aspects of reading should be made clear.

In concept formation there are factors other than good teaching. Maturity is another. A younger child does not have the maturity nor the experience to form concepts. The general level of intelligence will also have something to do with concept formation. Teachers should be aware of these age levels and should be willing, able and knowledgeable about expanding the student's world in the formation of these concepts when he is able and willing and mentally capable of doing so. This can be done by having all kinds of experiences available rather than giving only lectures. There should be experiences that the student can involve himself in.

These ideas about concept formation can be tied in with perception. We understand through experience, and our whole perception is an accumulation of experiences. The way in which we are able to perceive objects and events conditions how we form concepts that we have condition the perception we make.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the experiences that teachers give should be relevant. Teachers have to search out for the students' interests, aptitudes and things that have relevance to the students' world. The materials have to be tailored by the teacher to suit these needs. The materials have to be tailored by the teacher to suit these needs. They have to be planned. Availability of materials in itself does not guarantee good teaching. These machines and tools that are used in this programme help. But no automated classroom can do by itself individualized programmes. The teacher has to prepare them according to the needs of his students individually. It is also a fact that more materials in a classroom does not make necessarily a good learning situation. Also, too many machines alienate the students from others-the sociological element is not there. We have to work with the students in an ongoing social context. Relating classroom experiences to the everyday life outside the classroom is another way of helping to build concepts for they can see, know and learn through experiences common to them.