As schools around the country remain closed due to COVID-19, Dr Suzanne Parkinson from MIC’s Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive & Special Education has this advice for parents-turned-educators!
In these challenging and difficult times as school closures leave parents striving to manage learning and education at home, it is timely and opportune to focus on ‘learning to be a learner’.
Learning to be a learner extends far beyond book learning and any activities at home that encourage curiosity, collaboration, perseverance, imagination and creativity, joy, attention, memory, effort, co-operation, self-discipline or organisation are just as important, if not more important, than some of the worksheets and homework activities your child is completing.
Under the big umbrella of 21st century learning these are skills which were not considered important before but that will now be needed for tomorrow’s world. We are moving away from the three Rs of prescribed skills and knowledge in school and moving to three new Rs: Recognition, Responsibility and Reflection. These three new Rs are all about empowering your child as a learner and supporting independent self-directed learners. Recognition is about helping your child recognise that they have a role in how they learn and how they can identify strengths and weaknesses in learning. Responsibility is about helping children make decisions about their own learning and explaining the reasons behind their choices, answers and decisions. Reflection is about helping your child reflect on their learning, set goals and consider what could be improved going forward.
Let’s explore one of these learning ways this week at home – Curiosity. Children are naturally curious, often driving us mad with so many ‘Why’ questions! And sadly, children often lose this curiosity over time, so we need to encourage children to keep asking questions. Curiosity is a really important skill in learning how to learn and is associated with deep, meaningful learning.
So at home this week, stimulate curiosity by:
- Bring lots of ‘what ifs’ into conversations.
- What if I’m the student and you’re the teacher….what will you teach me today? What if I could be invisible…?
- What does your child wonder about?
- Make a wonder wall/ a fascination folder….
- Provide answers to your child and let them make up the questions that lead to your answers – something that has a long handle and cleans the floor?
- Encourage your child to pursue a curiosity projects based on interests, e.g. Life in 2080 on another galaxy. What are the questions - dream it, draw it, and create it.
- Allow time for your child to tinker – time to think. Cloud watch/ follow raindrops fall down the window… time to think and tinker….
- Challenge children to rethink ways of doing things – can we do this differently? How? In what ways? Why not?
- Change the routine
- It is important for children to have a daily routine but occasional small changes in their daily habits can stimulate their brain to think in different ways, which will provoke curiosity. It can be something as simple as changing where they sit for breakfast/ changing they the bar of soap to foam soap etc.
- Occasionally surprise your child. Positive surprises can enhance a child’s curiosity. You could leave a morning note under their pillow, organize a treasure hunt for a snack, or wrap up a house object and allow 20 questions to uncover the object.
- Open-ended stories. Make up a story or read a story that can have lots of different endings. Invite your child to make up as many endings as they can.
- Ask lots of questions. Ask often: “Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?” ‘What if…?’ Make it a habit to be inquisitive e.g. What if trees were upside down? I had a spaceship?
- Everyday objects can be fascinating. Has your child ever seen a pair of binoculars/ a corkscrew etc? What could it be? How might it work?
- 'Would you rather?’ is a popular game and easy to play with your child e.g. would you rather be a mouse or an elephant? a giant or a wizard etc.
- Develop interviews and questionnaires – encourage your child to think up of three questions they would like to be asked by someone they admire – Superman/ Michael D. Higgins etc.
Check in next week for more ideas on how to help you child learn how to learn at https://www.facebook.com/mylearnerid/
Dr. Suzanne Parkinson is a developmental and educational psychologist at Mary Immaculate College and author of the My Learner ID Series for primary schools which helps children learn ‘how to learn’. She is the recipient of the 2020 Psychological Society Members Award for Best Contribution to Practice for her innovative work in this field.