Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Sayings - John Holt

     Today I'm joining Tammy from Forever in First for Saturday Sayings. If you're interested in doing a Saturday Saying, visit her post here.

     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?


  1. Meghan, you've brought up some very important and valid points. Choice is so big and yet not always easy to incorporate. With all the standards that must be met and limited time to teach them, it's easy to focus on our own agendas. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of finding out what interests our kids. I'm so glad you joined me today!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. Great food for thought! I wrote about community and at my community gatherings students often bring up topics that we then explore more deeply. I've tried to set aside time each day to explore different topics that the children want to know more about. It's fun for me to explore these topics, too! I now know more than I wanted to on many random topics...I'm the life of any party...LOL!
    Owl Things First

  3. Choice is an important motivator for most people. If it seems important to us or we are interested in it, we are more likely to work harder to learn it. Now to figure out how to make everything we teach feel that way to our students! lol!
    Conversations in Literacy

  4. Excellent post, Meghan! I like your ideas, too, especially the "discovery time". Choice is huge and extremely motivating. But like you said, sometimes it's important to have people nudge you into areas you would not have otherwise explored. I'm currently jazzed up about learning all I can about digital design, and it amazes me how much time I can put into it without even noticing the hours I spent because of my deep interest. That's how excited I'd like my students to be about their own learning:)
    Take care.
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs