How many hours a day are students learning? Think about it, do they stop learning about the world around them when the dismissal bell rings in school? Of course they don’t! Whether they are conscious of it or not, they experienced inertia on the bus ride home and learned how to adapt their bodies so they wouldn’t be tossed around the seat (PHYSICS). They thought about the distance from the bus step to the sidewalk and adjusted their launch trajectory for the jump and the landing (more PHYSICS). They experienced hunger and breathlessness as they ran to the front door (BIOLOGY). They had the seminal experience of using a specific key to unlock a specific door (LOGICAL REASONING). And then they started hypothesizing about physical change as they microwave their after-school snack (a little CHEMISTRY). All of this between school and starting homework.
Kids are constantly receiving information about school subjects, life, social nuances, value systems, relationships, and many other things. Learning doesn’t stop when the school day ends, and once we accept this, two wonderful possibilities blossom: the home environment can become a classroom, and so can the world at large. Who better to guide them through the home classroom than their top support people? That means you, the parents! Don’t worry, you aren’t being challenged to become an educator overnight, but there are a few tricks of the trade that teachers use to encourage students along in the discovery process . . . and you can use them also.
Here are three teacher strategies to try at home:
1. Develop a “Learning” Rapport
Though it may seem obvious, the relationship that you have with your child is the gateway to everything. The stresses of daily life and keeping them on the right track can dominate your conversations. Think about it: What are the 5 things that your child values above all else? Now think about the last five conversations you’ve had with them. How often were you talking about their passions? Teachers use NON-ACADEMIC interactions with students to develop trust and to develop a rapport that supports learning. You can practice the same strategy in daily interactions, like conversations in the car or during meals, by asking about something that excites them.
2. Check for Understanding
Sometimes the complex tasks that today’s kids engage in (navigating a smartphone, finding WiFi, downloading apps, and interacting on social media – as examples) can lead us to assume that they understand words or concepts that they do not yet understand. Using clear language is always a best practice. Many teachers use a practice called “checking for understanding” in which they ask their students to repeat the instructions and to state the steps necessary to carry them out. At home, many skills are reinforced, such as active listening, and many arguments avoided when there is a shared understanding.
3. Use Open-Ended Questions to Stimulate Thinking
When you ask your child a question that can be answered with a yes or no, you aren’t providing them with the opportunity to give substance to their thoughts. Questions that start off with “when,” “why,” “how,” “where,” “what,” and “who” extend conversations, and thereby stimulate thinking. Take a step back from the last chat you had with an adult: were you interested in their thoughts, or did you just need enough information to get the idea? Kids are different; the verbalization process brings depth and understanding, so help them talk it out by asking questions while they are in the “home classroom.”
Are you interested in learning more about how and why you should support learning at home? Check out a few other posts on the topic (Parental Involvement and Early Learning Success or The Role of Parents). Or, share a teaching strategy that could be used at home with us on Facebook or Twitter (@Assess2Learn).
This is the last blog in Dr. Jordan Argus’ series, School Rx. You can read the previous posts in the series here.
Dr. Argus is a regular contributor to our blog and is an education advocate, speaker and consultant. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.