Literacy beyond Language
Literacy takes many forms.
For most of us, 'literacy' evokes the idea of skills like reading, writing, and comprehension. Obviously these are important skills for individuals to master, but literacy goes much deeper than written language. Sometimes the 'soft skills' get swept aside in elementary education, but it's these very skills that hold the keys to the cognitive kingdom.
Understanding our emotions, how to regulate and express them skillfully requires a fluency that underpins most of our human existence. Self-awareness of thoughts, sensations, and motivations is a set of skills that we each must develop to be successful in leading ourselves.
Relational skills are a form of literacy. Understanding the body language of others, social cues and how to show up for the daily dance of learning through trial and error in relationship to others... these are all forms of literacy.
There's a lot of pressure on early learners (and their educators) to develop cognitive skills as soon as possible. This sense of urgency squashes organic opportunities to develop the domains of social-emotional awareness and creativity. As the research grows to show that social-emotional learning (SEL) supports greater cognitive development, our educational model is shifting. There's even been differentiation of SEL and mindfulness models that pose some interesting integration opportunities in the classroom.
A focus on relational and mindful practices resources early learners in ways that conventional cognitive models don't leave room for.
This is where creativity comes in. Introducing opportunities to make, tinker, explore and create in novel ways not only facilitates opportunities for academic growth, but connects children (and adults) to relevant and meaningful ways to engage with learning.
These opportunities to develop critical thinking, design thinking, empathy, and communication skills are forms of literacy that open up greater neural connectivity, which makes written language acquisition a natural extension of the creative process.
Figuring out how to do this work with students virtually has been one of the greatest challenges and victories of my work to date.