M:How was your day?
M: Did you have fun?
M: what did you learn?
Sometimes getting your child to talk is hard! Maybe they are young and need to practice language more. Maybe they are older and tired! One strategy to help have better conversations with your children is open-ended questions.
A Question like “What color is that block?” evokes a one-word answer. But an open-ended question, “Tell me about the blocks you are using,” encourages a child to describe the blocks or explain what she is doing. There is no right or wrong answer here.
An answer to an open-ended question gives us a window into what the child is thinking and feeling. And the response is sometimes wonderfully creative. In explaining or describing, children also use language more fully.
It is difficult to change the closed-ended-question habit. But when we ask open-ended questions, children reap great benefits as they think through their responses to express what they want to say. And with their answers, we find out more about what they want to say. And with their answers, we find out more about what they think and feel.
M:Tell me about this (math test, notebook, essay)
K: Well we did this 3rd period. Here, look at this....
Active learning means taking advantage of a child's natural desire to explore through touch and sight. All children love to manipulate environments, items, and objects. The love seeing how things work and testing their own hypothesis of how they think things work.
You can support the energetic process of active learning by allowing time and space fo it! Making sure your kids get lots of opportunities to investigate what interests them—doing so allows them to solve problems, understand relationships about the world, and explore new interests.
Children use all their senses to make discoveries during active learning: how heavy, how large, how tiny is it? Does it smell good or bad? What makes that smell? In various environments, how will it sound (being dropped, being hit, being opened, being smashed)? What else sounds like that? How is it different from the other items? Focusing on more than just sight allows them to be more active and make more sense of the world.
Children who engage in active learning have the chance to become better learners. For example, active learning will help them later write better. It takes very refined movement of the hands and fingers to produce the penmanship required for writing. Squeezing clay, picking up puzzle pieces, and lacing threads through beads are ways for young children to practice using hands and fingers. Children without these experiences work harder to learn to write and to become proficient writers.
The next time you want your child to learn about something, provide the materials, space, and time. Then step back and watch. You will be surprised at how much more the child will discover through active involvement!
One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is crochet and dance. I'm not an expert at either, but that doesn't matter. I'm not trying to be. I just doing something I find enjoyable. Parents choose hobbies such as dance, crochet, golf, and swimming because we find it enjoyable. We also have some control over the time we spend in our hobby, and we see the opportunities for success. Success might mean under par, a completed blanket, or a beautiful garden.
Children too learn best when they have some control over their activities and play! MAybe they are choosing between toys or between opportunities, but they need that sense of control within the boundaries you set for them.
These choices empower children to take control of their own learning. Children use materials and equipment in far more creative and innovative ways than we could ever plan, and they use the materials in ways that meet their own developmental needs. So instead of asking your child if they want to color, provide materials of a few varieties and see what they come up with.
Research indicates that intrinsic motivation – when we work on a task just because we find it enjoyable – is the most effective and engaging way to learn. Providing more choices when your child does homework, plays with toys, or reads for pleasure is a key way you can support intrinsic motivation!
Erin Rae is the Curriculum Coordinator at Lockport 91.
Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.