Sunday, August 28, 2011

Life Lessons to Classroom Application

As I mentioned in my bio, I am learning to become a runner.  Now this is so unnatural for me, it's not even funny!  Up until March of this year, I never ran anywhere on purpose in my adult life.  And my childhood wasn't filled with much running either. I was always last, and I didn't like it.  In March, though, I decided to work on my health.  My son is majoring in "Exercise Science" and had completed a half marathon last year.  He's working on his marathon for this year.  A friend took part in the Couch to 5K running plan.  And I was inspired.  So I started.

Literally, when I started, I could not run 60 seconds without feeling like I was going to DIE!  It was painful, and it was slow...but the plan was steady and doable.  Over the summer, I completed two 5K run/walks (I'm still a bit slow).  And now I'm training to participate in a half marathon in February.  This morning I completed my first ever eight mile run.  As I ran (and walked) I was thinking about my little K learners.  We aren't that different!

Anytime we are learning new things, there are times when it's just plain hard.  But when we take it one little bit at a time and inch our way forward, amazing things happen.

Dr. Brian Cambourne (Australia)  identified eight conditions that all learning requires (whether you're a runner or a Kindergartener).   They are:

  • Immersion—Children need to be surrounded by whatever they are learning.  As a runner, I have immersed myself into running websites, talked with other runners and read magazines about running. 

  • Demonstration— Model reading, writing and thinking for children. Let them see you writing notes, letters, stories, recipes, and lists. Make sure they notice you reading to yourself, for pleasure, for information, for directions, and for other purposes. Show them how to hold a book, turn the pages, and read aloud.  My running demonstrations have come from my son running along side me telling me what might help me run faster and more efficient.  

  • Engagement—Help children become active learners who see themselves as readers, writers and thinkers. Set up a risk-free environment so they can experiment with language, literacy and numeracy.  As a runner, I have to stay engaged in the plan and see myself growing every time I hit the road.

  • Expectation—Set realistic expectations for learning. Everything takes time, but we must expect that they CAN learn.  I am always motivated by the expectations of others that I can run a little further.  But I also have to expect that I can do things myself.  

  • Responsibility—Give children choices about their learning. Set up the environment to promote self-direction. With running, I have to take responsibility to get myself out there regularly. 

    • Use—Create a climate for functional and meaningful uses of oral and written language. Encourage children to read along with you; help you write notes, letters, and lists; and engage in lots of conversations and problem solving.  Basically, the rule here is: "If you don't use it, you'll lose it."  If I don't stay on my running plan, I won't be able to make progress.  

  • Approximation—Accept children’s mistakes when they are learning to talk, read, write and do math. Congratulate them on their accomplishments. Guide them gently into accuracy and soon they will begin to self-correct.  My approximations as a runner are MANY!  I'm thankful no one is there whispering in my ear "that wasn't fast enough" or "you don't run well enough."  

    • Response—Listen to children, welcome their comments and questions, and extend their use of oral and written language. Celebrate the enormous language and literacy learning that is occurring daily!  The response of friends and family is important to the learner.  I love it when someone says, "You can do it!"  Or "I want to give it a try too!"  
    You have probably also learned something in your adult life.  You're no different than any child learner you know.  If we can keep these things in mind, it will help us encourage the learners around us and ensure that we create the proper conditions for maximum learning and growth!

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