The project on "Learning Sciences and Brain Research" was introduced to the OECD’s CERI (I) Governing Board on 23 November 1999, outlining proposed work for the future. The purpose of this novel project was to create collaboration between learning sciences and brain research on the one hand and researchers and policy-makers on the other hand. Most commentators agree that policy making has not yet found an application for brain research in education and that, conversely, brain researchers have not found practical applications for their research in the learning sciences. Notwithstanding the remarkable progress in fundamental research in the last decade, notably in mathematics and language, the number of findings that can be exploited or that have been exploited by the learning sciences remains sparse. This is probably due to the fact that up to now there has been little direct contact between "neuroscientists" and "learning scientists". Though, both cognitive psychologists and educational specialists can be thought of as relevant feedback mechanisms between neuroscientists and education policy makers, it is not certain that participants in these fields understand the significance of these connections.(*) In this context, the Silablado (II) is an example of what we can do when the scientific findings of the last decade are applied to design an original didactic method to teach kindergarten kids how to read.
The Silablado is “an early and natural method to teach” and is based on the cognitive abilities that have been inferred from the observations made in the cognitive developmental psychology research with the new methodologies. It is based on the following abilities:
- The early ability to coordinate input information from different sensory modalities.(6,7,8)
- The early ability to perceive and represent speech from different sensorial modalities.(9,10)
- The early ability to babble as an introduction to speech.(11)
- The early ability to babble in different sensory-motor modalities (as in sign language).(12)
- The early ability to perceive writing as a language.(13,14)
- The ability to use an explanation-based learning (EBL) process in early teaching events.(15)
Based on these abilities, on observations made by Cueto(17) and other researchers(16), the Silablado propose that:
- Reading and writing are types of language.
- Because the babble reflects the sensitivity of babies to rhythmic patterns (syllables), which launches the process of language acquisition independently of the language format (like in babies exposed to sign language),...
- ... the comprehension of writing language can be favored by a “reading-babble” stage.
- In kids, the reading-babble stage is a way to reproduce the baby babbling that represents the beginning of the productive language capacity.
- The reading-babble stage is stimulated with specific texts designed by four principles(17) (examples with Spanish sequences can be download).
The reading-babble stimulates early cognitive abilities that babies use naturally to learn a language and that is why the method is “natural and early”. These early developed abilities allow infants to identify writings with repetitive sequences of syllables in the language to be taught. The Silablado can be used by parents and teachers, and with children from two to six years old. The Silablado was initially designed in Spanish, but its principles can be used to adapt the method to other romantic languages or languages with a close relationship between grapheme and phoneme. (III)
The Silablado was presented to the Educational Community on 7 June 2007 in the first pedagogic meeting organized in Buenos Aires by the Unión Argentina de Maestros y Profesores (IV) (CAMYP). In this first meeting, called “Jugando a leer” (V), the method and its foundations were presented to almost two hundred teachers that analyzed it from different points of view (theoretical, curricular and practical). They presented about one hundred monographs evaluating the method, which was successfully tested with kids from two to five years old in thirty three kindergartens.
On 6 October 2009, the CAMyP organized the eleventh pedagogic meeting, called “Silablando en la sala del jardín” (VI), in which the assistants learned how to use the four principles of Silablado to make the pictures(17) and applied the method in the kindergartens. In this occasion, teachers not only applied the method successfully, but they also extended the limits of application playing with one-year-old children and proving a prediction of the method: If Silablado is considered as a stage in the learning process, it could be useful on children who have problems with the reading and writing learning process, as the rehabilitation of a function usually implies returning to previous stages in order to achieve the acquisition of that function.
(I) Centre for Educational Research and Innovation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
(II) Word suggested by the author meaning the merge of three aspects of the method (syllable, babble and spoken language) according to the following diagram.
(III) English language does not present a close relationship between grapheme and phoneme and perhaps this is why the Silablado and Doman methods are so different. These two methods are based on different cognitive abilities and, as a consequence, they could be another expression of the Whorf theory: “different languages require different methods to teach children how to read” and, conversely, “teaching different languages require children different cognitive abilities”. A good reason to teach children different languages.
(IV) Argentinian Union of Teachers.
(V) Playing to read.
(VI) Syllababbaling in the kindergarten.