Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beginning the school year - how do we learn?

How did you get better at firing arrows?

Did  your students learn something new during their long holidays - or get better at something during this time?

Students need to appreciate that learning is what humans all do from birth - think about how young babies learn. What do they do to learn?

Unfortunately many young people  think learning is something they do at school - and worse still many students have 'learnt' that are aren't good at many things. As Henry Ford said , 'If you think you can or you think you can't you are both right!' Many students need 'learning recovery'.

Get students individually, or in groups of twos or threes, to talk about their own experience at something they have got better at.

 Examples :basketball, swimming, cooking, fishing, skateboarding, singing, acting , playing a musical instrument, making something, learning about animals or plants and so on.

It would help if you  first shared a new learning experience of your own as an example.

Give them some prompts to help their reflection.
What was your first attempt like? What was the hardest at the beginning? What made you keep going though it was hard? Did anyone help you - how? How did you know you were getting better? 

What lessons about learning a new thing come out of their reflection? 

What would put them off learning something new?

How would a great teacher (  or any body) help you learn anything?

From the above discussions  what conclusions can be drawn about how people learn.

For example: 'You need to want to do it'; 'it's hard at the beginning'; 'you learn through mistakes' ( trial and error); 'you need to stick at it';' practice makes it better';   'others  people can help - or put you of'f; 'you feel really good when you can do it well'.

Reflect with class why  people give up?

You might continue by asking your students about what they want to learn about during the year?

What are their concerns that they might want to explore? What interests would they like to follow up on? This 'democratic' approach is encouraged by middle school educator James Beane. Individually students write out their own lists and then these can be sorted out by students in small groups - or by the teacher. 

The great majority of student suggestions are easily integrated with curriculum requirements but at the very least it will give an idea of the interests of your students.

Over the year many of the students ideas can be covered  or referred to. Students need to experience a stimulating range of learning areas

The below cover most of the various learning strands of the New Zealand Curriculum:

1 Environmental studies ( first and fourth term)
2 Physical science /technology study.
3 Life in other cultures - in time.
4 Life in other cultures - in place.
5 An arts study - music, dance, or a visual art.
6 Mathematical explorations.
7 Physical education/health stud
8 Literature/language theme.

Where possible literacy and numeracy programs will be integrated with the above.  The above suggest two studies each term.


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