Learning to read
Learning to read, for most pupils, can be easy and fast, if certain principles are set to work. The first one is to follow the pace of the children, and never to move on to the next stage if the previous level is not thoroughly acquired. The second principle is to distinguish clearly between the two different phases of learning to read:
a) deciphering (understanding and applying the alphabetic principle), and then learning by heart a certain amount of the most common, non-decipherable words (In English, it concerns words like “through”, “cough”, “frighten”, etc.).
b) reading fluently; this implies complex strategies which have to be specifically trained.
Learning to write
Even in our times of computer omnipotence, it is still important to aim at well formed and easy handwriting. Writing summaries and jotting down important information for oneself allows for optimal memorization. Furthermore, it is by writing a lot that spelling and ordinary grammatical rules are best acquired. We usually avoid fill-in-the-blank tests and ready-made worksheets, and we encourage the pupils to write as much and as often as possible in their notebooks.
Learning to calculate
We make a difference between arithmetic and mathematics. Arithmetic is utilitarian: it is used in everyday life, it comprises addition, subtraction and division as well as multiplication tables, all those operations which have to be learned by heart and practiced. In maths however, pupils enter the world of numbers, of shapes and the laws governing it. They discover constant numbers, such as Pi, with which one can calculate the circumference of all circles; series of numbers, like the Fibonacci numbers which explain the coil of the snail.