There is a way that works to engage children in the learning process. Start with what builds confidence. With teaching the goal is not to see if they got it right, but it’s to see that the path they choose to problem solve is the best way to the correct answer. Have you ever witnessed or been that student who raised their hand in class and when selected you got the answer wrong. The teacher then moves past you until someone gets the answer right. No explanation or checking in on how you came to your answer, you are just wrong. While learning that feeling of feeling defeated tries to creep in. Part of the struggle for students is to get past it enough so they don’t miss out on the engagement and learning piece. The school setting is not the place where feeling defeated should be tolerated. Building confidence in learners equips them with tools that motivate and encourage them to learn and engage.
Know Your Role
As the teacher, you have goals you would like your students to achieve. A common goal that teachers share is that they want students to learn. The way to get them to learn is not as simple as it may seem. There is the activity of knowing your students, exposure, and explanation, ordered steps, nurturing, and patience. I can think of more to add to the list but, you get my point. There is a lot that goes into teaching. Having a clear definition of your teaching role will give it purpose and erase the limits of what you could do to help your students achieve the learning goal.
You may be thinking all students have to do is show up and be filled with knowledge. That is far from true. They have a role to play too. From an early age, I got my kids excited about learning. I did this by spending time teaching and showing them connections. One example is how letters make words, then a group of words make a sentence. When they were able to read things on the television or the games they played, it was exciting to them. They wanted more. Students have to come with a willingness to learn, a curiosity about the world around them, an open mind, and the willingness to engage even if they are wrong.
Start With What They Know
A good way to begin teaching is to start with what they know. This is also a technique students can use while they are learning on their own. Our brains hold a lot of information and it’s all there for us to tap into when we need it. When you find yourself stuck trying to figure something out, pull from your stored information. Sometimes you just need to know the meaning of one word to jumpstart problem solving. I’m reminded of a time when I was teaching my son math. I was giving him lessons to build him up to learning how to find the common denominators in fractions. One of his assignments was to find the factors for two numbers, then list the common factors of the two numbers. He asked me what it was before giving himself a chance to pull what he knew from stored information. I asked him, “What is it that you know about the word common?” He gave some answers still not feeling confident he knew, so I gave some examples of how friends have things in common. I explained that even numbers have something in common, but you have to trust the process of how to figure it out.
Celebrate Engagement Right or Wrong
Engagement process is to be celebrated whether the answer is right or wrong. The point is that we are learning and there is support to get the right answer. Often times those who are correct are told, “Good job,” or are praised about how smart they are. Not that it is wrong to do so, but there should be some encouragement for those who try and are engaging though they are wrong. Remember the goal is to learn, and grow. One thing I have learned about kids is they like to be included. Some kids if excluded from the process of learning because they got something wrong could take it to mean they have nothing to offer and allow it to diminish them from taking risk and engaging in the future. I don’t even want to think of how many have fallen through the cracks on that one alone.
My hope is that you read this blog and feel more energized to teach and learn. There is a responsibility to both the teacher and the student. On a daily basis we move in and out of these roles subconsciously. Let’s be mindful of ways that make learning enjoyable to all.