When I was a high school teacher, there were typically two reasons for a student’s inability to concentrate: either there was an external issue I was unaware of (perhaps they were still processing something that happened over lunch, or they were preoccupied with a relationship issue or something was going on at home), or the lesson I was teaching did not match their learning style or interest. More often than not it was the latter.
I was reminded of this today during a visit to the National Portrait Gallery. Julian has a little friend; an amazing, creative, spontaneous, energetic little friend. He is fiercely intelligent and his ideas just burst forth. In a situation where the children are expected to be still and answer questions, these personality traits may come across as intense, off-task and disruptive.
But they couldn’t be more wrong. These intensities aren’t disruptive and they are far from off-task. They are a strong drive to know and understand, to share and express ideas.
“Children do not wait for our permission to think. Indeed, children are bursting with ideas that are always impatient to escape through language (and we say a hundred languages) to connect and communicate with the things of the world.”
~ Louis Malaguzzi, Founder The Reggio Emilia Approach
Julian’s little friend reminds me of Julian in so many ways. Julian is creative and spontaneous, he’s energetic and intense. Teaching Julian can be either extremely stressful or incredibly rewarding. It all depends on me.
How does Julian learn? When I ask myself this question, my eyes are open to him; I watch him play, watch him create, watch which books he chooses to read, which art materials he chooses to use; I see him.
I know that he expresses his understandings through his hands. I know that he uses his whole body to share ideas; jumping around as he talks. I know that his drawings are inspired by the music in his head; humming and singing all the while.
I know that spoken stories soothe him; that he will sit and draw alone happily if he has an audio book playing. And I know that he recreates his understandings visually with materials he can manipulate.
I know these things now. And when I teach the way he learns, everything connects. Julian is engaged, questions are flying everywhere, there is a buzz of enthusiasm.
When I don’t, when I lose track of whose learning this is and instead create learning experiences based on my learning style, (and probably worst of all) when I can not relinquish control; insisting that we complete the activity, things never go well. No learning of any value happens.
The only thing Julian learns is that my ideas and my ways are more valuable than his and that he needs to conform to my ways. And that is NOT something I want to teach him.
How do you feel when you are teaching or spending time with children? Do you feel energised most of the time? Or do you feel a little stressed, anxious and even a bit deflated? I think a lot of how we feel about teaching and the time we spend with children has to do with our approach. Are we teaching in the way our children learn?
What is the best way a child can learn?
Limiting learning to the classroom is one of the most common errors instructors and parents make when nurturing students and children who are effective learners. While the classroom will most likely be the major source of education, intellectual, social, and academic development should extend beyond the classroom walls if you want to really improve a child’s motivation and aptitude to study.
One reason kids do not learn effectively is because they are provided information passively. Instead, individuals should ask questions and revise their knowledge of topics as they go. To assist your kid in taking responsibility of their learning objectives, ask them what they want to gain from studying a certain idea. Show your kid a book cover page, for example, and ask them what they see, think, and wonder about it. They could think, “I wonder why the meal on the table is unfinished” or “I wonder why the cat seems upset.”
Because most conventional teaching techniques use all three sensory learning styles: visual, aural, and tactile, many mothers are left wondering what they may say or do to help their kid learn better. Many parents are concerned that their kid will continue to struggle and will never realise their full potential. At the same time, many of us have seen our children acquire new skills, abilities, and talents from what we consider to be an exceptional instructor.
What makes a child learn fast?
Children’s brains can absorb new information like a sponge. In general, children may acquire new skills faster than adults. However, learning is not limited to children. Adults have educational demands as well. There are several instances in which people must acquire knowledge. Your kid may resist asking for assistance because she fears being seen as “dumb” for requiring assistance. Teach her that requesting assistance does not make one less intelligent. Furthermore, it is essential that she seek assistance when she is stuck so that she may progress and learn more quickly.
When there is a great deal to learn, it might be helpful to divide the material into sections. Suppose you have a 20-word spelling exam.
Instead of considering all of the words at once, consider dividing them into five-word pieces and concentrating on one or two chunks each night. Thus, our preoccupation with early literacy seems to be rather misplaced; there is neither a necessity nor an obvious advantage to rushing it.
Alternately, if your kid begins reading early or has an autonomous interest in reading before their school provides it, that is also OK, so long as there are many opportunities to relax and have fun along the way. Be an excellent role model for your kid by pursuing your own hobbies and passions with vigour. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning. If you have the time and finances, you may even enrol in an online or in-person course in a subject that interests you, such as cooking, photography, or literature.
How do your children learn?
Or the students in your class? What languages do they use to express themselves and their understandings? Do they like to represent their ideas through building and drawing like Julian? Or are they logical and deliberate; creating lists, following steps, practising their handwriting and creating plans? Maybe they express themselves through writing, or through music and dance?
Maybe they need to move their whole bodies; and so find sitting still difficult, preferring instead to create bold strokes with a paintbrush or delve their fingers deep into a lump of clay. Or maybe, instead of completing writing practice sheets, they prefer to label drawings and write letters, or take on a more sensory approach; writing letters and words with water.
We need to take time to really observe our children; learn about how they learn, and engage in a continual dialogue of reflection so we can teach so they can learn. If that means changing our entire style of teaching, then so be it! It’s their learning after all.