Teaching Children to Have a Voice

John Dewey once said, “If we teach children as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow. This quote captures the relevance of the Common Core State Standards. Let me show you my thinking about why we need to change our delivery model.

Two years ago, my now four-year-old grandson found his connection to the Universe. He knew that his Dad’s phone could magically turn my face into a screen that talked to him. In the early morning hours, he crept out of his bed, found this phone and pushed the call button. I answered, and he laughed. He continued to repeat this newly discovered connection to the world with delight. He represents a new more connected generation. The world is at their fingertips. They use knowledge at the application level to think, make decisions, and create solutions. They see themselves as the agent in their learning. We know that understanding develops as learners reflect on their reasoning and their ways of knowing.

So how does this impact our schools? Speaking and listening are integral components in the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards beginning in Kindergarten. We expect Kindergarten students to participate in conversations with others about selected topics. They reflect on stories while expressing their comprehension and they construct meaning with others. Children learn classroom respect by listening with their hearts and ears to one another! Throughout their education, the learner comes to understand that they create their own understanding by comparing their progress to others, to the lesson target, exemplar papers, and/or to their own inquiry. Asking authentic questions that they deem as important motivates them.

How can schools support this? Create project-based learning that provides agency or voice in learning. This scaffold and empowerment create lifelong learners! When kids value their education, and they have a voice, and they learn with much higher levels of success. They are inspired to learn more by applying their knowledge to new problems and projects.

The role of the teacher changes into one of a facilitator of learning. It requires more planning in the beginning! However, when you release control to the students and you provide more support to their learning while they are learning, you reap the rewards! Project-based learning, PBL, provides more opportunities for students. The teacher provides the resources. The teacher gives immediate feedback to the learner on his or her project! This increases student focus and promotes self-regulation. In the early phases of PBL, this teacher uses a curriculum focused on helping children learn to:
Ask curriculum-influenced questions
Question their assumptions
Observe and reason
Evaluate
Learn how to ask follow-up questions

The results are voice and choice, grit, and self-regulation! These are enormous learning outcomes that develop the inquiring mind!