Is Your Teaching Meeting Children’s Learning Needs?
How to become a more innovative teacher
Much has been written about the need for teachers to cater for children’s different learning styles. However, it is equally important that teachers and pupils know what their preferred learning style is. For example, if a pupil is a highly kinaesthetic (active) learner, do we want most of their learning to be movement and action orientated? This is not practical in a classroom of 12-35 pupils with a variety of learning styles and will in most cases, not improve the active learner’s ability to learn. It is best to think of a pupil’s preferred learning style as equivalent to their favourite dish in a restaurant and that many would be disappointed if this dish was not available. Does this mean that learning falls flat if individuals’ learning style is not catered for? Both teachers and learners need to realise that, to optimise learning, pupils need to process what they have been taught in a number of ways to be able to reproduce what they have been taught. Classroom lessons need to be kinaesthetic, auditory, visual and intellectual and the lesson plan should reflect this.
Here are some things you can do as a teacher:
Stay physically active for better results
- Get pupils up out of their seats regularly. Do some stretching, walk around and change seats because physical activity improves learning by raising oxygen and adrenaline levels in the brain.
- Get pupils to have brain breaks after 20 minutes and go for a 3-minute walk with a partner. Each pupil should tell their partner the three most valuable things they learnt from the lesson. They should also mention anything they don’t yet fully understand.
- Get the pupils to stand up and form a learning circle. The teacher then throws a juggling ball to a pupil who must pose a problem or ask a question for the rest of the class to answer. The class then collaboratively creates a solution out loud. When the problem is solved, the student throws the ball to someone else who poses another question and the game is repeated.
Seize opportunities for classroom articulation
- Periodically get pupils to pair up and talk to each other for 3 minutes about what they have learnt, what it means and how they can apply it. Pupils will remember more of what they vocalise because it is self-generated information.
- Teachers can also create an auditory memory aid for the key points they want pupils to remember.
- Hold a mock cocktail party. Each pupil has to write down one question that they have about a particular subject. The teacher also provides a number of additional questions for pupils to select if required. Pupils then have 10 minutes to find the answers by speaking to as many classmates as possible. Pupils then get 5 minutes to answer the questions in written form and answer sheets are shared out amongst pupils.
- Before or after a lesson, get pupils to listen to an audio-tape about a chosen subject and then facilitate a whole-class discussion.
The learning is in the seeing
- Create a classroom that looks like a multi-sensory walk-in learning book so that pupils are constantly surrounded by information they have learnt. For example, use content-related posters on walls, A3 handouts in a mind map format and pictures on presentation slides. Where possible use posters designed by the pupils to personalise the learning environment.
- At the beginning of a lesson give children an editorial for 5-10 minutes of in-depth reading about a subject and ask them to summarise 7-10 key points. During the lesson ask pupils to add to their summarised points anything they may have missed. Complete the lesson with a review of the main points.
- Get children to create a huge wall mural in the classroom or at home of everything they have learnt on a particular subject. Ask pupils to use coloured pens, images and words.
- Get pupils to watch a relevant video and then write a short synopsis of what they learnt. Then get pupils to create flash cards and use them for a review session.
The real learning is in the thinking
- At the beginning of a lesson ask pupils to create a twenty questions quiz about the subject you are about to teach. Once your teaching is complete, pupils can be assigned to two teams for a mini-competition against each other. If one team is unable to answer a question it gets sent back to the opposing team to answer. Keep a scorecard and award small prizes to all the pupils.
- Have pupils write about the lesson content in their learning journal. After your teaching is complete give pupils a few minutes to write in their journals including any questions they still have. Then ask pupils to share their journal entries and provide opportunities for them to raise questions with the whole class.
- During a lesson put pupils into teams. Give each team a problem to solve relative to the lesson. Allow the pupils to collaborate with each other and to use any resources in the classroom to help them solve the problem. Place books, posters and handouts that will be helpful around the room.
- Near the end of a lesson, ask pupils to sit quietly for 3 minutes and reflect on what they have learnt and how it relates to what they already know.
Clinton Lamprecht founded the School of Accelerated Learning and since then has trained thousands of teaching and training professionals in brain-compatible learning strategies worldwide. A degree in psychology, a thesis in accelerated learning, an NLP Trainer and over 10 years’ experience in training and learning confirms he brings with him a rich perspective and experience in accelerated learning that will rarely be matched.
This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, April 2005.