Tonight I took my teen-aged daughter to the mall to pick up some items we had ordered. As we approached the service desk the sales person recognized me, gave us a huge smile, and proceeded to tell me how her daughter came home from school today, proclaiming it to be “the best day ever!” The daughter went on to let her mom know that she now loves social studies!
It just so happens that I have her daughter for social studies. During our time together, we had a class chat on how they might want to approach our next topic of learning. We’ve been working diligently on close reading non-fiction text so many can do this effectively and independently. Many, if not most, are ready to dive in and be independent learners, using these close reading skills, with some coaching from me. So today I asked the kids to think hard about how they can best learn this next topic. They were given several ideas and then we brainstormed together. Some wanted to team up with another classmate, some wanted to work independently, and some wanted to work with me. I challenged them to be honest with themselves and told them that truthfully I think some of them still need quite a bit of support from me, but that many could work on their own learning quite effectively.
To watch their faces as they realized they had a choice in how to learn was priceless. Listening to them brainstorm resources and formats for demonstrating their learning was even cooler. They are thinking of themselves as researchers. They are asking questions and thinking about what is important to learn and know. They are truly embracing their own learning.
Little did I know when we had our chat today that I would hear such positive news about it from a mom the very same day. Nor did I dream that a girl’s view of her learning would be so drastically altered. Hearing how enthusiastic and excited she is gives me incredible joy.
Tonight, I’m thankful I was able to release the reins in my classroom a bit. I’m even more thankful for the life it breathed into my kiddos. I hope today will spark more ideas of ways I can allow my students to have more ownership and flexibility in their approaches to learning and demonstrating their learning.
I’ll wager there are many of you who have found ways to open the floodgates of learning for your kids. What do you do? How do you do it? Would you be willing to share? I would love to hear any ideas you have!