The Role of Poetry and Stories of Young Children in Their Process of Learning

Article excerpt

In the contemporary society children develop special abilities to ask questions, to doubt, and to wonder, that enhances development of their symbolic thinking that in turn help them in the learning process.

This article includes analysis of the link between symbolic thinking and the child's process of learning. The inquiry is guided by the themes developed by children in poetry as a way of expressing their understanding of the world. It is illustrated by the poems published in the newsletters of the Canadian prairies' elementary schools in Winnipeg. The studies are supported by a review of the research showing that development of symbolic thinking is crucial in helping children to learn. It is asserted that the questions asked by children in their poems guide us to their future and ours.

In the research of Moore (1981), it is emphasized that "young children come to school as essentially poetic human beings". She stated, "Many years ago I became aware that poetry is a natural language of young children. All children seem to be born poets" (p. 30).

Wituckie (1970), who also analyzed poetry in the elementary school, asserted that poetry is necessary at school. It develops a child's imagination and abilities to express feelings and beauty. Poems may stimulate our imagination and creativity. According to Wituckie(1970) poetry is a new, imaginative way of seeing, and her belief in poetry is likewise a belief in children - young people who bring so much to poetry and can take so much from it. (p.64)

   I can fly (by Olga 9)
   I can fly like birds up high
   Above my head.
   I love they wings and the colour of the sky.
   Here and there
   the birds are every where
   And when I fly I sing certain lullaby.

In the literature we found a very strong assertion that language is the prime symbolic medium. This is supported by Deri (1983), Gardner (1979), Olson (1991), and Schmidt (1973).

According to Olson (1991), language is used for representing the world; it makes it possible to reflect on and to become aware of the world (p.265).

Piaget (1962) stressed that at about the age of 2 the child discovers the symbolic nature of language when he/she figures out that everything has a name.

Yet, there are different approaches to language acquisition and the thinking process. Chomsky's (1980) theory (innatism) is opposed to that of Piaget (generative) or social psychologists such as Henle (1965) and Vygotsky (1962). For example, Chomsky believed that linguistic structures are hereditary and the role of culture and knowledge is not a basic one.

As Chomsky (1986) stated," The problem, then, is to determine the innate endowment that serves to bridge the gap between experience and knowledge attained-or cognitive systems attained.[.....] We are thus in a good position to ascertain the nature of the biological endowment that constitutes the human "language faculty", the innate component of mind/brain that yields knowledge of language when presented with linguistic experience and that converts experience to a system of knowledge" (p. XXVI).

For Piaget, language is a product of progressive construction of thoughts that reach deeper than the linguistic verbal reality. As language is only a particular form of the symbolic function and as the individual symbol is certainly simpler than the collective sign, it is permissible to conclude that thought precedes language and that language confines itself to profoundly transforming thought by helping it to attain its forms of equilibrium by means of a more advanced schematization and a more mobile abstraction (p.92)..[....] ... As Piaget (1968) emphasized. "There are no innate structures: every structure presupposes a construction" (p. 150).

Henle (1965) stressed the social character of language as an historical phenomenon. He reasoned that to learn a language a person must form the concepts expressed by it or in it. …