I recently read the book Thought and Language by Lev S. Vygotsky and Alex Kozulin. The section about writing illuminates the need for using mental models when teaching writing to young children. Some of the points that lead to this reality include:

  • Writing is different from speech in a number of ways:
  • “Writing is speech without an interlocutor, addressed to an absent or an imaginary person … a situation new and strange to the child. It is a conversation with a blank sheet of paper” (181).
  • The teaching process must include mental models to help connect writing with the child’s concrete world.
  • “Studies show that the child has little motivation to learn writing when we begin to teach it. He feels no need for it and has only a vague idea of its usefulness” (181).
  • Mental models are needed to motivate the child to write.
  • “Writing requires deliberate analytical action on the part of the child” (182).
  • Speech is done almost unconsciously. In writing, the child must analyze sounds and represent those sounds with abstract symbols.
  • “The grammar of thought is different from the grammar of inner speech” (182). I wish the book had more information on this concept, which is fascinating; I want to research it further.

Thought and Language underscores the need for mental models to teach writing with the following summary statement: Speech is spontaneous, involuntary, and nonconscious, while writing is abstract, voluntary, and conscious.

Each of the points above support aha! Process’ standpoint that mental models are essential for effective teaching. I thought it was interesting to read in the preface that although Vygotsky was highly educated, he never received training in psychology, which became the focus of his life’s work.