Actually, I don’t totally disagree with this myth. You weren’t expecting me to say that now, were you? But, really, why do teachers teach? Because teaching is what we do. The thing is … for this myth, what we need to recognize, is that there are many different ways to teach, because … there are many different ways to learn …. and not all of them take the direct path from Point A to Point B…. in other words, from the teachers mouth to the students’ ears.
Different learning styles
I’m sure you’re aware of your students’ different learning styles : you have visual learners- who need pictures and images, auditory learners who do better when their learning is combined with sounds and music. You have verbal learners who must speak out their own understanding in order to gain a solid grasp of your intended learning. And then there are kinesthetic learners who have a real need to move, move, move. Move their bodies, move their hands and move their feet to learn, integrate and remember knowledge. Logical learners need to reason their way towards answers that make the most sense to themselves. Social learners – are kids who prefer learning and processing information within the dynamics of group interactions …. and then there are solitary learners who need to be alone to process knowledge in order to remember and use it. How is one teacher supposed to teach right and wrong to all those different learning styles?
Obviously, there are many advantages – for you and your students – to teach to as many of those learning styles, as often as you possibly can, rather than relying on the direct path from Point A (YOU) to Point B (YOUR STUDENTS) . You know … the old-fashioned Top-Down approach, sometimes referred to as the Sage on the Stage, or the Teacher-Preacher approach …
… because, if what we’re teaching is not actually being learned and REMEMBERED and USED IN REAL LIFE, for everyone’s benefit, then no matter how good, or how disciplined or how organized our teaching is … ESPECIALLY when it comes to our students learning Right & Wrong, then am I the only one who thinks that maybe it’s time to consider new possibilities ?
“It’s the learner with working memory, decoding, or attention challenges who retreats into silence or acts unruly out of fear they will be asked a question they are not yet ready to answer. It also defines the student who excels at classwork but is devastated socially and emotionally in school.”
One quick, and very practical suggestion for teaching that gets remembered and used while incorporating nearly all of the learning styles … and developed a loooooong time ago: is the Socratic method. In a nutshell: Socrates is famous for saying: “I cannot teach anyone anything … I can only make them think.” Can you remember back when you were a kid, and you were always being told right from wrong, this from that, do this, don’t do that … !? How much did all those Do’s + Don’ts ‘STICK’ in you? How often did you need to come to your own conclusions so that you could feel like you were living by your own sense of Right & Wrong? And once you had come to your own conclusions, was it more natural for you to live by your own values, your own conclusions? Maybe not perfect, but easier and more natural, more automatic?
How many of those learning styles can you easily combine into a lesson about …. ummm … let’s say … pushing? Well, it would be easy enough to provide a variety of pictures – for your visual learners – of people pushing in line, people pushing on the playground, and even – by contrast – pushing someone on a swing (good kind of pushing). While your students are looking at those pictures, ask all of them (for your social learners) some open-ended questions about what they see in the pictures, about times when pushing might be okay, and other times when it’s not okay (for your LOGICAL LEARNERS … and maybe ask the kids to compare pushing with interrupting (for your Logical as well as your VERBAL learners) Let’s not leave out the kinesthetic learners … What if there could be a demonstration of pushing by two of your students. Very likely, you’d have plenty of volunteers for that, as well as a few laughs. It might get a little rowdy, but PUSHING would never, ever be the same for those kids… because they’ve learned about the topic from so many different angles, through a variety of their learning styles … With the right kinds of questions … questions that would gain Socrates’ approval by, at the very least, being open-ended, we can get our students to think, to reason, to logically conclude … in the direction of their own best answers that draw upon and activate their own conscience – their own personal awareness of Right & Wrong, and by doing that, with classmates (social learning style), they’re enabled to discover that every one has a natural-born sense of right and wrong. How do we know this? Because all kids know how they want to be treated … so, with a little finesse, it’s entirely possible to give kids the clear understanding that no one likes to be pushed … By enabling our students, even our very young students, to share in those kinds of discoveries – which are NOT lectures … but personal discoveries for them … our teaching of Right & Wrong becomes not only easier, but more inclusive, and more successful.. It’s something worth thinking about, don’t you think?