Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Our vision at Mindshift Education Coaching is to change the landscape of Education and learning. We want kids to see the value in learning. We want to make learning growth and success one of the things children strive for!
For many children learning is a chore and I don't blame them for thinking that way. Learning had become stale and unless we revamp the environment, and I dont mean with pretty colours and cartoons, I mean connecting it to the world in which they live not the world we think still exists. Children no longer connect personally to the same things of generations past. There is no longer even a tenuous link between the child with teenager of today and the child teenager of even 10 years ago.
This is why the importance should be on adapting to not only the needs of learners but their interests. What do they personally connect with? What is culturally relevant? What do they enjoy? When we begin to understand the answer to those questions, and respond to them, we begin to engage children in experiences that develop a love of learning incidentally.
Think about it. Human beings won't voluntarily commit to something they're not interested in, it's not in our make up. Of course, as adults it is our job to ensure that children are not jusy doing what they want but also doing things that are beneficial for them and lead to their growth and development. But why would we not make an everyday necessity like learning something that is not only accessible, but interesting and exciting?
Children don't want to sit at the table and fill out a work sheet they're given for homework, or work with their tutor memorising times tables. This is because these things are not relevant to them they don't see it as existing a part of their world, and they're right. It is that lack of relevance that creates disengagement in children.
Think about the reasons you make the choices you do- what you watch on Netflix, who you follow on Instagram, the books you read. How different are those choices to those of your parents? Those differences are 10 times greater for children today. This is why we cannot expect children to respond to a word problem on a page that asks how many ice creams Jenny can buy from the ice cream man? When was the last time you ran out to the street and bought from the ice cream man?
Connect learning to their world!!!
Using personal interest, such as sport, is one of the most underutilised incidental learning opportunities. I think back to the many hours that I spent watching sport as a young child and I have no doubt that it impacted on me as a learner.
For me, I learnt my 4 and 6 times tables because of my passion as a child. That passion was rugby league, and I knew that a try meant 4 points, and a conversion was 2. I made the connection of 4 + 2 = 6. I knew that if the team scored four tries they got to 16. If they converted all four they got to 24.
It is the incidental opportunities for learning, learning that occurs naturally in the environment, that benefits children because it imprints in their brain due to the connection they make with something they love. We can make the most of small increments of learning growth with incidental learning that contributes to the big picture.
I'm using sport as an example because it's something that I loved growing up, and I use this with my son because he loves sport. However, you can adapt this too many different interests, you just need to find your way in!
I'm going to give a few examples of how you could use the opening day of the major league baseball season to improve number sense and maths overall. There are a number of sports, activities, interests and passions that you can draw on for incidental learning experiences in a number of areas.
Today is opening day in the major league baseball season, so let's take a look 5 things you can do to utilise incidental learning when watching a game.
1. For young children the experience of seeing numbers in the environment can initiate the development of their early number sense. Use things like numbers on the scoreboard, player jersey numbers and even phone numbers in the advertising to draw a child's attention to numerals. Young children love to show you what they know, so instead of telling them what a number is start by asking them.
2. As with most sports that require speed, baseball uses a speed gun to track the speed of a pitched and the speed the ball leaves the bat. This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about units of measurement. Look at the abbreviation of each unit, what that means can be powerful when it comes comes to deepening understanding. If you're in a country that uses a different unit unit of measurement you can talk with your child about how to convert miles per hour into kilometres per hour for example.
3. Use the scoreboard to do some incidental operations work. The simplest way to do so would be looking at the difference between scores. This is great to start your children thinking about word problems. Rather than putting 7-3 on a page, use the scoreboard that shows the Mets beating the Rockies 7 runs to the 3. Ask them what the difference is between the score, how many more runs have the Mets scored than the Rockies, or how many runs do the Rockies need to score in the last inning if they are to win the game.
4. For those older students you can begin looking at batting average and the decimals and percentages. These are also used to describe things like hit rate and accuracy. This is a greatvway to relax a child's thinking about a mathematical concept that traditional causes angst due to its complexity.
5. Sport is a great way to teach children about measurement. Many of the associations and estimations I make with regards to measurement were born out of my experience as a child with rugby league. I knew that from try line to the other was 100m, and that each line represented 10 m. When watching a baseball game you could discuss the distance between the pitcher's mound and the plate, how far a batter has to run to reach each base, and even the distance from home plate to the outfield fence.
These five tips are but a few suggestions that you could use for incidental learning with your children when watching something that they love, a baseball game. I guarantee you that starting a conversation this way will get far greater buy-in and engagement than if you were to sit your child down with a piece of paper and a pencil, or using an ipad to maths app.
The simple fact here is that we engage with what we love at a far greater rate than what we don't. If your child has a love of sport seize the opportunity to use this love to create a love of learning.
Be mindful that not every second of everyday needs to be a learning experience. The secret is to find those little windows in time and seize them for learning!
Stop position learning the same way your maths teacher did 20 years ago. Use culturally and personally relevant experiences to make learning authentic. When learning is relevant and authentic it means something! When learning means something it leads to exponential learning growth, which is our goal as parents and as educators.