One thing that I think helps all learners internalize new content is being able to discuss the new information they are learning. Debate, discuss, explore, ponder …. letting the new ideas roll around in your head and hook into the things you already know will build your comprehension and strengthen your understanding.
As a parent, I often want to discuss what my children are learning in school. They are now 13 and 14 years old and are learning about some fascinating topics. But I don’t always know what they are learning. And they don’t often want to tell me and risk getting caught in a lengthy scholarly discussion with their geeky mother about what they are learning in school. In addition, they are getting to a point in their schooling where I am not particularly knowledgable about the topics being covered.
I know that the parents of my students often struggle with the same issues. One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 is to contact the families of my students more often to provide them with ideas of how to reinforce what we are learning in school.
A recent example of this (just last week!) was when my students were learning about the beginning of town-life in Medieval Europe and the rise of Medieval guilds. At the same time, the news channels were filled with coverage of the protests surrounding Michigan becoming the 24th state that had passed the “Right to Work” law. If the parents of my students were watching those news reports, they would have a wonderful chance to connect something we were learning about in class with current events as well as issues that may touch their families directly.
So I decided to email the families of the students in my honor’s 7th grade Medieval History class:
Dear Team 5 Families,
In class today, we are talking about the beginning of medieval guilds and how the guild system provided benefits for guild members, citizens of the towns, and the king. Current events have provided a wonderful connection for this topic around the dinner table one day this weekend. The “right to work” law has been in the news lately as Michigan passed the law to become the 24th “right to work” state. If you have been following that news story, it may be something you could discuss with your child. How do modern labor unions compare to medieval guilds? Why do we have modern labor unions? Why is there such controversy about the “right to work” law?
If you are a member of a labor union, you may wish to discuss the function of your union and how it benefits you or why you chose to belong to that union. If you are not a member of a union, but belong to a professional organization, you can compare the function of a union vs a professional organization. My goal for students is to explore issues from a variety of perspectives and to debate current events in conjunction with the historical perspective they are gaining.
This isn’t a required “assignment” but could be a good way to begin conversation with your child about what he/she is learning in class.
Enjoy your weekend!
Do you have ideas to share? How do you find someone with whom to share your own scholarly passions? How do you support parents of students to help them discuss new ideas with their children?