Tips for Teaching Pupils to Learn how to Learn

Daniel Greenberg said, “You can’t make someone learn something-you really can’t teach someone something-they have to want to learn it. And if they want to learn, they will.”  This fundamental truth collides head-on with the reality that to help your child succeed in the traditional educational system, you have to convince him or her to learn what is being taught, when it is taught.  Realize that we all learn most readily what we perceive as important or interesting.  This does not mean that the educational system is “wrong” to insist that children learn certain topics in a certain order.  It just means that part of the learning process is ‘learning to learn.’

One key to helping your child accept learning as her occupation is to give her the right amount of ‘ownership’ of the learning process.  For a younger child, this may mean choosing what order to do various assignments each night, helping to decide which subjects need extra time, breaking larger assignments into chunks.  Creating a place or a set of tools for learning can help a child of any age become invested in the learning process—allow the child to participate in the process of choosing notebooks and organizing tools, supplementary texts, calculators, references, so that they see these as useful instruments and not just invisible pieces of the learning system.

Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame—not the filling of a vessel.”  When you do have some freedom of choice—choosing a book for a book report, a science fair experiment, a topic for a creative writing assignment—help your child choose something for which the flame is already kindled.  Learning more about a favorite topic provides ready motivation; speaking or writing about something about which you are already somewhat knowledgeable provides a boost to confidence.

A quantitative child may benefit from a visual or numerical way to chart their progress.  Go beyond just grades—how many columns of vocabulary words are in the back of the Spanish book?  How many of them have you learned together?  How high must the child learn multiplication tables?  Square roots?  Trig functions?

Go a little beyond what is required for the course—many teachers hesitate to require even the smallest amount of memorization, but a well-chosen suite of facts committed to memory can aid in understanding and problem solving.  Memorization has the added benefit of being something that you will always be able to help your child with.  You may not be able to identify foreshadowing in The Scarlet Letter, but you can read states from a list and quiz your child on their capitals.

For more studying tips and tools, see this website, How to