All children are by nature active learners. They are inquisitive and curious and inherently brilliant. But often, when it comes to school learning, their natural brilliance seems to fade.
There are a multitude of reasons why children lose their natural curiosity and encounter academic trouble. In school, they are expected to follow a certain path and conform to the curriculum. They have to learn subjects at a certain pace that may not be in keeping with their personal interests. That’s when their passion for learning and exploring tends to diminish; that’s when children start to become passive about learning.
As parents, we don’t want to see our children have difficulties in the classroom, and we want to encourage them to use all the resources that they have available to them. Luckily, it’s easy to help kids develop their active learning skills.
What active learning means
So what exactly is active learning, and how do we make sure that children are using this important skill?
Rather than sitting in a classroom writing down notes, a student who is learning actively is asking questions about the new material, seeking understanding, and relating what he or she is being taught to pre-existing knowledge. An active mind thinks about learning. An active mind is curious — it notices detail, infers meaning, develops understanding, integrates past experiences with the present action, and judges the appropriateness and value of anything and everything. An active mind doesn’t just learn; an active mind is engaged.
Even young children can develop this skill with a little coaching and behaviour modeling from parents. In fact, all students, of any age can develop and hone their active thinking and learning abilities.
Encouraging active thinking
Active learning is not a skill restricted to the classroom. Children (and adults too) should always be thinking about the world around them. In fact, the more that children develop this skill outside of the classroom, the more they are able to apply it in class.
The best way to help your children develop active thinking and learning skills is to ask questions that will them help them “turn on their brains”. Do this during any adventure or activity, whether it is walking in the woods or reading a book together. Ask questions:
– before the activity to signal to the child that he/she need to be thinking critically about something. For instance, try asking, “What do we already know about what we are about to do?” or “What do we think that we might learn?”
– during the activity to draw connections or highlight details: “What else is this like?” or “What does this remind you of?”
– after your adventure, to reflect on the experience. For example, “What did you observe or learn that was new?”
And when you are having conversations with your child about their day-to-day experiences, remember to always ask “Why?” or “Why do you think?” Ask for possible explanations. Avoid general questions and seek specific answers. Rather than asking, “How was school?” ask, “What did you learn in history class?” Remind kids that there are no wrong answers, and that trying to answer questions is an important part of the active thinking process.
Like organization, or studying, and many other school skills, active thinking needs to be practised. The more that a child is mentally active outside the classroom, the easier school becomes. Once a child flips on the mental switch and becomes an active learner, that switch never turns off.
Oxford Learning offers programs for children from 3 years old through university. Our goal is to give students the skills they need to be successful in school and in life. Oxford Learning has locations in Halifax, Hammonds Plains and Bedford. For more information about our programs and services, visit us at www.oxfordlearning.com