This week, I went to my college library to look for what books there were on bullying for a group presentation. While I was there, I saw the book What Do I Do Monday? by John Holt. I remembered hearing his name from some information I looked up back in high school about different types of schooling. John Holt is tied with unschooling, even though he spent many years teaching in a classroom. You can read more about him here. I decided to read parts of his book to look at it with the knowledge and experience that I have gained during my college years and student teaching. One quote that sums it up very well is:
Many unschoolers, which are children in a type of homeschooling that is student-led, use this to support their method of following the child's interests. I do agree with John Holt's idea of self-directed learning to an extent. In my own life, I can think of certain things that I learned and worked on more intently while I have been in school than the things I was forced to learn. For example, as I mentioned, I was very interested in educational theories during my senior year of high school. I could spend hours procrastinating on my homework by looking up different ideas of education. That seems really dorky, but I actually had no intention of being an education major at that time (why I didn't get the hint, I don't know). However, I also learned many things at school where I was taught things that I did not think would interest me until a teacher forced me to learn about it. Still, I think John Holt has a very valid point. Children do learn best when they want to and have say in the matter. Creating the conditions listed may be easy for a homeschooler, but it is more challenging when applied to a classroom of students, for whom John Holt also intended the book.
What can we do as teachers to help students learn best by self-directed learning? Throughout this week, I have thought about that question, and I came up with a few ideas that are not all brand-new:
- Having a discovery time each day where students could choose what they wanted to work on. They may want to read, work on a project, draw, or look into an interest of theirs. The teacher would be the facilitator, encouraging students in their interests.
- Encouraging student interests they mention. If they ask questions, help them find the answer. If they love horses, help them learn more about horses. When using a KWL chart, be sure to respond to all of the wonderings.
- Allowing projects to be open-ended with students choosing their topics and how to respond. I can recall some of my favorite book reports where the only requirements were a book and project that was okayed by the teacher.
What are you doing to help students learn
by allowing them to led their learning?