Why Helping Children Is Essential to Giving Them Good Grades
We hear it a lot: “Teachers are just waiting for kids to do everything.”
Experts often say this, and kids bristle.
It does seem sometimes that the more activities they do, the more they seem to “just be.”
We ask kids to fill in a short sheet by answering a series of questions about what they do and why they do it.
That seems like too much work for only the last two pages. Some kids are uncomfortable answering questions about hobbies, like jobs or interests.
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So a better solution might be to share activities in other ways—either as choices for the entire class or as opportunities to analyze how children learn. The activities could be timed in other ways, too, and every student could “choose” on the other two pages to do an activity.
By finding more ways to share important activities, we can teach kids how to really understand what they are doing, and this more curious approach could make them stronger learners as well.
Superficially, it can look like a really old-fashioned approach to teaching.
But this strategy has been used for 30 years with some really important results.
“A lot of what we do is backwards,” says Roland Lane, director of the Center for Creative Learning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “We give students material, and say that if you can learn more of the material, or come up with a better answer, you will be a better student.”
Instead, he says, what we need is a “learning-to-please” approach. “It’s really important to be able to recognize that you need to help your students.”
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Parents and teachers try to teach students how to do things. When students are given a chance to “help,” they often say, “No, I’m not going to help.”
Research has shown that helping is a useful technique that kids seem to appreciate and learn from. But it’s still often our default “No” strategy.
When we work to figure out why children are not helping out, we can have them practice answering the same kind of questions they were asked before—without having to fill in the answers first.
By sharing important activities with your kids, you can teach them that it’s okay to help—that if you learn about something, even if you don’t know everything about it, you can help.
By providing these opportunities, you can teach them how to really be helpful.
Lane says, “It’s so important to be able to be helpful.”
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Teach kids how to really help.
John Currie, principal at San Francisco’s Cardilan Magnet School, uses a series of experiments to teach kids how to be helpful.
In each experiment, Cardilan’s African-American students are given standardized, state-required tests and are told to schedule their time such that they will get the test in on time.
Kids at Cardilan are asked to buy the students who scored lowest money, and another group is asked to buy the students who scored highest money.
Currie tells kids the kids who failed the test probably did something wrong, while the students who scored highest most likely didn’t.
“At least ten times, you’ll see kids doing the money purchasing exercise,” Currie says. “They spend the money on kids they love, people they care about. This isn’t just some activity.”
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