Early school years Part I – Portuguese lessons


October 21, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

Oh, I can’t help it!

Just today I felt this urge to think back on my primary school education. I think this reflection will really help me get where I want to get as an educator. Also, I wanted the blog to have a series of  more personal thoughts, I mean, more stories. Something easy to write, without quotations and questions that make people think for two days (oh, this is for Karenne ;-). I can already tell you that I’ve been typing these stories as they come to my mind, so forget about neat paragraphs, accurate punctuation, hyperlinks and da di da. I’ll do my best not to edit either, which will be quite an exercise, not doing it. I’ll keep bold and italic cause I can’t live without them anymore.

Starting now a series of interviews with myself talking about my early school years – 7 to 10 years old.

(oh, and you’ll see that apart from self-love this series connects beautifully to what’s been said in this blog)


Q1: How were Portuguese language lessons at first grade of primary school?

Oh, I never liked it. Well, the first year in primary school was okay, cause I could read already, and half of my class couldn’t, so I felt like I was better than them, you know, all 7 year-old boys want is to be on top, of course. But the lesson itself, I mean, the teaching, was appalling. I don’t know if they still use this hideous method, I hope they don’t, but it was really dumb.

It was like this.       First you learn the alphabet, ok, no problem with that.

Then you get the first consonant (b) and put it before the first vowel (a), so now you got ba and that’s a syllable, wow!

Then you do the same with the other vowels, so ba be bi bo bu. Good job! Now you would get the second consonant (c) to form ca ce ci co cu, I said you would, but you don’t because the consonant sound of ce and ci are different from the rest. So what you do?

Very simple, you skip it for now, take a look at da de di do du and come back to it later.      So the great idea is that you do the easy bits first, after all 7 year-olds are all illiterate morons.

After learning syllables you can already get a job selling candy at the traffic light.           But we don’t want that, so we move on to words.      Ca-sa, Ba -na- na , ca-be-lo, and one very difficult so no one gets a 10,   jo-e-lho.         You can notice that it’s all very contextualized and meaningful (the words are: house, banana, hair and knee).

The teacher does dictation, to make sure we practice the spelling …  and to talk us into this nonsensical artifact the teacher decides to grade it too.

Hence, the student who can deconstruct down to syllables and letters all the disconnected words the teacher pronounces is considered the most intelligent being of the first week of the first year of the kind of schooling that you remain sitting down in  an uncomfortable chair for long hours.

Despite the insanity I just recollected, I kind of enjoyed going to school, I had an inquisitive attitude and wanted to learn lots of things about how the world spinned and how man really managed to get women pregnant. But pressumably I needed the ga gue gui go gu before that, and I was fine with it for a while, after all, I knew nothing yet about education.



3 thoughts on “Early school years Part I – Portuguese lessons

  1. That is exactly how children are still being taught in Spain, albeit at the age of four and five in non-compulsory pre-school. It just shows how in state schools around the world educational methodology has not changed one bit for the past fifty years (and probably even since an education system was first put in place). Shocking really! I’m looking forward to the rest of your auto-interviews 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by Michelle!

      I was telling a similar story to my classmates at the MA course, there were six Chinese women an one American and they didn’t understand why the heck we have this method at school.
      It puzzles me that in Brazil we had a very special educator, Paulo Freire, whose work is widely known and inspiring to so many people worldwide, and he came up with an absolutely fantastic method for literacy and nothing changed.

  2. David Warr says:

    Hi Willy, I’m going over some of your posts. Great story so far… Thanks, by the way, for the offer of refenences for complexity theory. First impressions, you’re an interesting chap!

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