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Mr. Meerkat’s Poetry for Children

Mr. Meerkat’s Poetry for Children series is a literacy program which engages children through the use of poetry. With its rare Australian flavor, the pedagogical framework for the poetry reflects a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. It encourages students to actively engage with the content and to construct meaning by drawing connections with their own knowledge and experiences. The Mr. Meerkat’s Poetry for Children series contains 58 poems presented in 20 poetry readers for primary school aged children and is accompanied by teacher’s companions, online resources, recitals and interactive activities. The series was published by Reynold Learning in 2020 and is also available through the Renaissance Learning MyOn [1] site for literacy and reading resources. The poetry was created using the principles of ‘how children learn’ [2] drawn from Reynolds’ research and his article “A Study of the Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy on Neuro-Physiological Development.[3] All lesson activities are based on the latest understandings of language development in children.

Contents
 Mr. Meerkat’s Poetry for Children
1. Overview
2. Emphasis on learning development
3. Ontological approach
4. Pedagogical approach
5. References

1. Overview

The Mr. Meerkat’s Poetry for Children series was written by Dr. Leonard Reynolds.[4] Prior to writing the Mr. Meerkat series, Leonard Reynolds spent a decade specializing in learning development and helping children with learning difficulties/disorders. In 2009, his program was recognized by the Cambridge-Oxford Universities Oxbridge Guide: Global Educational Skills – Guide to Excellence in Education as one of the top 200 innovative programs in the world. [5] The Mr. Meerkat poetry series arises from Reynolds’ research into improving the neuro-physiological capacity of children. The Mr. Meerkat name and image are Leonard Reynolds’ persona, created in order to present poetry in an attractive format for primary-school-aged children.

The 20 Readers in Mr. Meerkat series are divided into learning stages because the author believes that children’s learning is developmental and children are at different cognitive and physiological stages of learning. The progression of the Readers is designed to relate to children’s different abilities and perceptions of the world. The program caters for both the high and low performing groups in every class and accordingly, offers ‘just-right challenge’ opportunities for children in each learning stage. As the series progresses, more complex and age-appropriate issues are introduced for reflection.

2. Emphasis on learning development

The Mr. Meerkat series is based on the principles of neurological function and what Reynolds’ calls neuro-efficiency. Over a two year period, Reynolds surveyed the efficiency of the brain’s sensory integration process with a cohort of 62 children.

The premise for the study was that the brain processes and integrates information through its sensors[3], and is able to plan and organize behavior in order to make adaptive responses in the ongoing process of learning. The neuro-processing of sensory information of the children in the cohort was stimulated through the Reynolds’ therapy and education program. The progress of the students was assessed using recognized neurological[6][7] and sensory[8]standard tests, with exceptional results.

 

The Mr. Meerkat poetry was created using Reynolds’ findings that learning is a developmental process. “Learning is a neurological progressive process and a natural process: Children cannot help but learn. Information is received by the brain then interpreted and then integrated”, says Reynolds. “Children learn through a process of integrating and accumulating information. As something new is accepted, the brain releases a pleasure chemical, an endorphin, to encourage further learning.”[9]

The purpose of the Mr. Meerkat’s poetry is to stimulate this “learning-success process” through the reading of the poetry to promote literacy and have student’s wants to learn more.

Accordingly, the Mr. Meerkat poetry uses a number of sensory inputs – humor, rhythm, rhyme, melody, audio and visual, to create connections for neurological integration.

 

 

3. Ontological approach

The Mr. Meerkat poetry series takes an ontological approach to the construction of the poems. The poet seeks to express his perceptions, experiences and emotions in words that can be understood by children. He seeks to reach out to others with the desire of invoking a response and appreciation of his poetry. He purposely uses a process of expressing one’s soul (psyché) or being (ontos) to another person – a process known as ontology.[10]

4. Pedagogical approach

The lesson resources and learning activities in the series draw on a constructivist approach to teaching and learning that integrates with the ontological rationale behind the poems themselves. Students are encouraged to actively engage with poetry and reflect on the subject matter. They construct their own meanings by drawing connections with their existing knowledge and experiences, making the poems relevant to their own lives. [11]

5. References

1. Renaissance.com

2. How children learn

3.Reynolds, L. (2010). A Study of the Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy on Neuro-Physiological Development. Reynold Learning. [Online] URL: https://reynoldlearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Research-Study.pdf

4. Dr. Leonard Reynolds

5. Guide to Excellence in Education• 4.

6. Beery, K. E., & Beery, N. A. (2006). The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration (Beery VMI). USA: NCS Pearson.

7. Martin, N. A. (2006). Test of Visual Perceptual Skills: Third Edition. Novato, CA: Academic Therapy Publications.

8. Ayres, A. J. (1979). Sensory Integration and the Child. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.

9. https://reynoldlearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Cambridge-Oxford-Reynold-1.pdf

10.Ontology

11. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.(2010-2019).National Literacy Learning Progression [Online] URL: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/media/4337/literacy-appendices-1-to-5.pdf

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