The Carden Method

What is Carden?

Carden® refers to the complete body of teaching techniques, educational philosophy, and curriculum developed in the classroom by Mae Carden, a 20th century educator. It is an interrelated, eclectic family of approaches to learning concerned with the development of the whole individual.

What does that mean? It means that Carden:

  • Teaches children, not subjects.
  • Has tools for successful learning, both academically and socially.
  • Doesn’t teach any subject in isolation. 
  • Uses class time efficiently.

Carden teaching techniques are not complicated. The teachers who use them are backed by a curriculum that supports inductive learning. That curriculum builds a solid foundation, year-over-year to provide security and accomplishment.

Experience, Identify, Define

The purpose of education is to equip an individual with the knowledge and skills he needs to succeed in his chosen field, and in life. Carden does this by leading a child from the point she knows to a realization of the facts that are a natural outcome. Carden teachers lead children on to conclusions they realize, not memorize. This is achieved through a learning process we call Experience, Identify, Define.

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If you want your children to receive a quality education at an early age, don’t wait to try out the Carden Method today! Find a Carden School near you.

Carden and the Mental Image

The mental image is a mental picture of an object, event, or action that may or may not be physically real or present. Our mental image is the result of our experience.  

Think of the word dog. What comes to mind? Can you describe the animal you see in your mind? What is the color of its coat? Can you smell it? Hear it? Do you have a good feeling about the dog, or are you afraid? Your answer to these questions comes from your experience of dogs. 

When we teach inductively, we lead our students from the point that they know, “This is a dog,” to the realization of a fact that is a natural outcome, “This dog is a labrador.” By teaching inductively we identify and refine the mental image, we bring definition to facts.

Carden leverages the power of the mental image every child possesses to create a learning experience. Through Carden, the child has the experience of thinking through from experience to an articulate conclusion. Carden students avoid imitative learning that is devoid of understanding. Carden students think. They master facts and understand. 


The Carden Reading Method

Carden is interested in creating capable, fluent readers. Our approach to teaching reading is unique. Here are some essential differences.

First, we begin to teach reading with the long sounds of the vowels. We do this because words and sentences that use this rule feature the legato sounds of English, the most common sounds.

Second, Carden readers have no illustrations. Why? 

  • Students cannot use the pictures to guess at the words or the content of the story.
  • Social, economic, racial, and geographical biases don’t appear as each child brings his or her personal mental image to the story.
  • Students may enjoy the fun of illustrating the stories they read themselves! Teachers will know what their students have comprehended and what they’ve missed.
  • Does this mean we don’t use books with illustrations? Of course not! The Carden literature program includes the works of Beatrix Potter in Grade One. Other lovely illustrated classics in the literature program include Goodnight Moon, Ask Mr. Bear, Ping, and more!

Because English is not entirely phonetic, our approach to teaching reading involves both phonics and word structure. Children have experienced the sounds of English from the moment they first heard an English word. Carden teachers lead them through a process of experiencing more of the sounds of English. Together they identify the letters that make those sounds and define the combinations of letters that spell them by creating a mental and physical chart. We take into account both word structure and grammar when using phonics in this way. We call the tools we create the Carden Vowel Chart


Find out more about Carden today!