Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Let it Come Naturally

You know the old saying that goes something like, you can't force a round peg into a square hole? Well, it applies to our classrooms in a very serious way.  You want your students to learn, that is a given.  The challenge lies in the manner in which it is accomplished.

Just like not forcing round pegs into square holes, you can't force learning on your students.  If you try, you will only be met with fierce resistance and certain frustration for all parties involved.

Instead, you need to focus on providing the means for learning to take hold.  Focus on the areas of your classroom that you can control, and allow the students to learn as a by-product.

But, how is this done?  Is there a special magic potion that you can spread throughout your classroom that will magically result in learning?

Not really, at least not in potion form.

What you can do is follow three simple steps that will envelop the students in a learning environment, resulting in their desire to learn without being forced into a square hole.

First, begin your year together with your students by building true relationships with each and every student.  Get to know your students, beyond their favorite color, team, etc.  Connect with them on a deeper level to show them that you truly care about them as a person first, student second.  This straightforward approach will resonate with students simply because you are placing a priority on getting to know them.  Show them that you care about them, as people, and everything you do in the future will be framed around your first decision to know who they are instead of what they can do.

Second,  involve your students in creating the type of environment in your classroom that best suits the learning goals and aspirations of your students.  Allow your students to help you brainstorm the ways in which they learn best.  By engaging your students in this conversation, you will demonstrate to them that they have a say in the manner in which their classroom operates.  Utilize this activity as another way to learn about your students.  Pay attention to what they are suggesting, for it will speak volumes for the best ways that they learn.  Try to be as open minded as possible during this experience, and begin to construct ideas around the suggestions that your students offer.

Finally, follow through and incorporate as many of the ideas from step 2 as possible.  When you are planning your lessons, refer frequently to the chart that you made with your students and try to find ways to include their suggestions.  Doing this will show your students that you value them as learners, and demonstrate to them that their ideas have merit.  While you will not be able to incorporate all of their ideas in each lesson, the ones that you do include will provide a learning environment that your students helped create.  They will assume ownership in what is happening in their classroom, and that feeling will carry them through their learning.

I know that I said there were three simple steps to take in order for learning to just happen in your classroom, and that it may seem as though there are other words you could use to describe these steps.  But, trust me, for it has worked in my classroom for years.  Each of these steps, when taken as whole, will create an environment perfectly structured for learning - without forcing a round peg into a square hole!

What do you think?  Have I overlooked an integral part to creating a natural learning environment?  I look forward to your input in the comments section.

image attributed to flickr

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