Fundamentals Are the Building Blocks of Fun

Dannyelle Wright

In the 2003 film, Uptown Girls, a young Dakota Fanning quotes dancer/ actor Mikhail Baryshnikov to express to her nanny that “Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” Dakota uses the quote to counter her nanny’s suggestion that doing 200 pliés for ballet practice was not fun. Almost 20 years later, the quote came to mind when I faced a small challenge at ACH Clear Pathways. The program manager asked me to work with a student because they were having trouble in their ELA class at school. When working with the student I noticed that some sight words and slightly larger words did not register with them phonetically. Understandably, English is a highly complex language to navigate when students cannot immediately determine is an “a” sound is long or short. This situation prompted me to use a variety of tactics that would help them with pronunciation so they could read the homework assignment. The student displayed mild frustration because they wanted to something fun like art instead of reading. However, I explained that practice would strengthen their reading ability, therefore succeeding in ELA. After homework, we practiced more reading techniques, and then I allowed the the student to proceed to art class.

Most of my education is in literary analysis and scholarly writing as an English major. So, thinking about terms such as phonetics and semantics invoked a memory recall of strategies that I do not use daily. I found it essential to elaborate to the student how mastering reading literacy will help them in the long run. I also discovered that comforting the student in the midst of their frustration made it easier for them to calm down and regroup. I understand that I will encounter students who may have trouble reading or require different teaching methods in my future career as an educator. I feel confident that I am ready koto tackle those challenges. Overall, reading is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. While reading literacy will help students achieve academic success, it can also be used to to help them express themselves in creative and fun ways like art.


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