My experiences as a creative person, tutor of children, and teacher of creative writing

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Helping "Active" Children Learn

If you have this last basic type of student, you probably get to visit with his teacher often.
You also have probably heard enough about how he doesn’t hold still, concentrate, finish his work, and is disruptive. Trying to fit these people into a quiet, orderly life is like
“trying to keep a moonbeam on the sand”, as the nuns in The Sound of Music described Maria, but as one also defended, “she makes me laugh!”. This child often brightens up an otherwise dull classroom. These are people of action. These are the movers of the world, the adventurers, the musicians, artists, actors, athletics, the mechanic, the craftsman, and the construction worker. They are also about 38% of the average classroom.
School is not geared to this student who is unwilling to sacrifice the moment for the abstract accumulation of some rules or information which is supposed to help him in the vague future. The “Active” student has no interest in the theoretical. This child values performance in the here and now with concrete things. He wants to manipulate materials, perform, have hands-on experience, verbal and visual involvement in learning - in short, anything with plenty of action. This child craves adventure, to be entertained, and wants his performance valued. He can achieve amazingly when in a competitive team situation.
These children need more help than any other to fit in the classroom. As a parent, you will have to work closely with his teacher to set reasonable expectations. This child will only listen to short practical lectures and readings. So, keep things simple and to the point. Write it down and post it. He often (accidently?) loses lists. Answer his need to know how to use this information.
The “Active” child doesn’t want fantasy, but “real life adventure”. He has no interest in the theoretical, but the concrete. He needs frequent change in his activities from working individually, to small groups, and to large groups. He relates best to peers, not adults. He is often the natural leader of his group. He is the ultimate pragmatist who has no respect for the abstracts of authority, or precedent, but determines what is of use to him at this moment.
Though he needs plenty of physical activity, excitement, and competition (team sports are great!), he can become over stimulated by all this activity, and need quiet time to calm down. Too much regimentation can result in rebellion. This child needs opportunities to respond spontaneously to life. He chafes at routine, and hates paperwork. Generally, thesimply refuses to do “hold still” things such as workbook pages, answer sheets, and other written homework.
Though most children learn better through learning experiences, these “Active” children can not learn without them. They enjoy activities such as role playing, educational games, art projects, creating dioramas, experiments, 3-D maps, and dramatization. They enjoy hands-on materials like puzzles, dominoes, number lines, abacus, phonics card games (cut pictures out of a catalog, mount, and match).
They learn well through simulated experiences, such as, a classroom store or post office, writing a letter to a real person, using their math at home in the kitchen or shop, some educational computer games, and attending a play instead of merely reading it. These children learn to count by action. They count their swings, or their jumps on a trampoline. Music can assist them in learning everything from the counties of Utah to the multiplication tables. Underlining or note taking helps to keep their attention, and reinforce information during lectures or studying. Later, they can use these notes for review. Though they learn best through physical activity, visual material such as posters, maps, videos, and charts will help reinforce facts and concepts.
A problem is keeping these children in school. Sometimes an action class such as shop,
music, drama, art, graphic, or sports can help them want to remain in school. Apprentice and work release programs can give these students the practical involvement they need. Most “Active” students will be interested in on-the-job training, or in technical training.
As a parent, you can find many helpful games in educational stores. Also, the Resource Center at the Provo Library can greatly assist a parent in providing meaningful leaning experiences for their child. Check with his teacher for ideas. You might be able to borrow or copy some materials from class to help him practice.
Above all, the “Active” child needs to be appreciated for his tremendous capacity to enjoy life, and his ability to get things done. He needs his parents to insist that he be accepted for who he is, not punished because he is not like his “Orderly” teacher.
Parents can be invaluable in assisting teachers to provide the individualization which many children are unable to find in the average classroom. It is our responsibility, as parents, to be actively involved in seeing that our child’s educational needs are being met.