If our learners are engaged, we are implementing meaningful learning assignments and are using highly effective teaching practices. But many teachers still struggle with HOW to get students engaged so that this engagement is maintained long enough to sustain new learning. Is it the cute printables? Is it the technology? Is it the hours and hours of lesson planning? I think it’s knowing about how learning occurs and knowing your learners.
As teachers and former students ourselves, we all know what engaged learning LOOKS like. But do we remember what NEW learning FEELS like?
Learning is a very complicated process. Children learn at their own pace and reach developmental, intellectual and social and emotional stages at different times. Sometimes learning new things can be very exciting. Many of these learning experiences are playing around with technology and seeing what it can do or learning a new fact that you didn’t know before. If it’s about something you are really interested in, that can be super exciting. But is this true learning? That depends on how you define learning. When you learn something, it needs to be processed and connected to previous learning and stored in memory to be accessed at a later time to scaffold into new learning. But not all learning feels exciting or fun. Why not?
I once asked my students before a journal entry on learning new things: “What feelings do you have when you don’t get something I am teaching?” (Many identified a perceived belief that they were the ONLY ones that weren’t getting it.) They told me they felt “stupid”, “embarrassed”, “sad”. I created this mini anchor chart for you to ask your students this question together. You can laminate it and use a white board pen to record their answers so that you can use it again. The second sheet I created can be used to teach an EXPLICIT lesson on learning new things. Pick a topic that you think many students do not know about and give them the topic. Have them write (or draw) what that topic reminds them of or if they have any background knowledge. Present the lesson with information and have them record some key facts (or represent this with drawing for younger students). Encourage discussion throughout. Then, have students complete the AH-HA section if they made any new connections or learning. Do not discuss this section until after they have recorded it. It’s okay if some students don’t have anything. This will identify that the students have not yet learned it. They can record what others have said if they like it and have made new connections from others’ learning. It’s a great start for students to see the process of learning.
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For more ideas on Growth Mindset and Mindful learning click on the pictures below.