No matter what type of learner you are, no matter what the environment in which you were learning, this past year was a challenge for everyone. This includes students, teachers, and parents. Going forward cannot be a catch up race. We must foster a positive learning environment, an environment in which students learn to love learning, a supportive learning environment. Ultimately, this will help students make greater strides going forward.
Creating a supportive learning environment in and out of the classroom will be essential to helping students move forward. It will be essential to help students learn to learn, and to learn to love to learn.
As students slowly transition back to school, here are GAMECHANGER’s 5 suggestions for creating a supportive learning environment that will help students learn to love to learn.
- Take every opportunity to model kindness and patience. Teaching kindness creates a calmer, more cohesive and supportive environment. Teaching patience motivates students to overcome obstacles and frustrations. By doing this inside and outside the classroom, students will feel supported and encouraged. Students who feel supported will feel more comfortable immersing themselves in learning.
- Establish routines, inside and outside of the classroom. Routines help students understand what is expected of them. It helps students to stay organized. Students can successfully navigate their days, inside and outside of the classroom, when they have routines in place. If there is a routine, expectations are set. Creating routines results in greater efficiency, more positive choices, and sets a goal for students. By establishing routines, students feel less anxious and feel more supported, and students tend to feel more encouraged to learn.
- Offer students choices. Allowing students to be decision makers helps them to feel invested in what they are learning. For older students, this includes choosing classes in which they are most interested. Offering students choices allows them to figure out how they learn effectively, giving them a variety of options and allowing them to self-direct their learning. Students and families should advocate for choices in independent reading, allowing extra-credit projects that play to their strengths, and encouraging students to speak out about how they learn most effectively. This also empowers students to speak up when they are struggling or frustrated or disinterested in a topic. Teaching students to become stakeholders in their education helps create a supportive environment in which the students will learn to love learning.
- Build community. This will help students to transition back into the classroom with less anxiety. Outside of the classroom, whenever the weather is warm, get students together for picnics, pick up games, and outdoor get-togethers. Invite new classmates so students can expand their circles, making them more comfortable around more of their peers. Ideally, within the classrooms, every school day should start with an idea share. Pick a daily topic and encourage students to share their thoughts and ideas on this topic. This does not have to be an all-consuming experience, rather five to 10 minutes every day during which students become more comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. This activity enables students to express their thoughts, to build relationships, and to collaborate with their peers and their teachers. This activity helps students grow and feel safe within the school environment, which will make it easier for them to learn.
- Support each student’s learning style. While this seems obvious, it is challenging to do in large groups, and even more challenging to do online in large groups. Some of this can be done in the school classroom, and some of this requires support outside of the classroom. By introducing diverse methods of instruction to meet the needs of each individual student, students’ strengths are emphasized and their academic needs are being met. For students, this means frequently asking teachers for one on one extra help. For parents, this means supporting students with tutoring when they require more individualized attention. While academics often discuss the need for differentiated instruction to support students’ diverse learning needs. Yet, implementing a variety of instructional models highlights each student’s strengths, encourages students to feel supported and motivates students to invest in their learning.
As we transition back into a new normal, students need to learn to love to learn. This will require exceptionally supportive learning environments, inside and outside of the classroom. Rather than focusing on getting through the curriculum and making sure that students are caught up, foster a supportive environment inside and outside of classrooms. Help students ease back into school. Mitigate anxiety. Create an environment in which students feel encouraged to learn to love to learn.
And remember, GAMECHANGER is always here to help students in an individualized, encouraging environment where they feel supported and gain confidence.