It would indeed be a herculean task to teach the words if the ideas did not already exist in the child’s mind

small parts spelled with alphabet block beads

Experiences and observations lead us to concepts: small, large, good, bad

We lunched with Mr. Thayer (your former pastor) and his wife. He asked me how I had taught Helen adjectives and the names of abstract ideas like goodness and happiness. These same questions had been asked me a hundred times by the learned doctors. It seems strange that people should marvel at what is really so simple. Why, it is as easy to teach the name of an idea, if it is clearly formulated in the child’s mind, as to teach the name of an object. It would indeed be a herculean task to teach the words if the ideas did not already exist in the child’s mind. If his experiences and observations hadn’t led him to the concepts, small, large, good, bad, sweet, sour, he would have nothing to attach the word-tags to.

one of Annie Sullivan’s letters about Helen Keller, written to Sophia C. Hopkins
from The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller, John Albert Macy, Annie Sullivan
image – Rantz

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