Children’s Learning: Questions For Reflection
by Dr. Joanne Foster, joannefoster.ca
As one season, month, or year morphs into another, there are plenty of opportunities to reflect on how to encourage your child’s learning. This includes asking yourself key questions about their needs, educational options, learning environments, provisions, and supports. To that end, you’ll probably want to consider what they already know, what they want to understand further, and how they like to learn. This kind of thoughtful deliberation can enable you to help your child progress in meaningful ways.
MOREOVER, YOUNG CHILDREN CAN LEARN TO REFLECT, TOO!
By engaging in reflection, you’re demonstrating a valuable skill. Thinking is important for questioning, problem-solving, creative expression, and reasoning. It can take place in different situations and contexts. You can reinforce your child’s efforts and learning as they reap the benefits of basic thinking skills such as remembering, comprehending, listening, and processing the information as they play, connecting with others, relaxing, and going about their daily activities. (To find out more see Reflective Habits of Mind—And Kids at The Creativity Post.) In the same way that you reflect so, too, can young children think about what they’re learning and doing in real-time. (Albeit, on a less sophisticated level than adults.) They can think about their hopes and dreams, and how they actually go about advancing their current abilities—at home, in the playground, or elsewhere. They might initiate thinking on their own, or they may need some gentle guidance or collaborative effort.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Here’s a trio of questions, each accompanied by a bit of elaboration and some practical suggestions. Thinking about these can help you empower your child to achieve greater joy in learning.
REFLECTION #1: WHAT CAN WE BUILD ON?
What does your child know, and how can that be extended? Whether it’s reading, drawing, printing, building structures, or something else, it’s important to get a sense of what your child feels comfortable doing, and where they’re at with respect to their level of skill development and understanding. Once you establish that, you can think about how to encourage their progression to subsequent levels. Find out what possible “next steps” look like, and match opportunities with their interests and areas of strength. One way to do this is by using your imagination and encouraging your child to use theirs. Creativity can propel their knowledge, inspiring them to find new and exciting learning paths. Young readers, drawers, printers, and builders can consider unusual use of color, line, or materials. They can benefit from multi-sensory experiences, and from being invited to stoke their curiosity. And, if given choices, your child can become actively involved in decision-making, and in selecting how to broaden their activities. As a result, they’ll become more invested in their learning. (See the articles on Children and Choice and also Fostering Children’s Creativity: Q&A in the October 2021 and November 2021 issues of First Time Parent Magazine.)
REFLECTION #2: WHAT COULD WE CHANGE?
The status quo becomes familiar to children, whereas change can sometimes seem daunting. Show children that change can assist, improve, or support their learning. Think: what might be altered slightly, moderately, or a lot? For example, a child who is having difficulty with an activity may need extra time; or help to focus more carefully; or a simplified bit-by-bit approach; or additional resources; or assistance while grappling with instructions or expectations. Young children can also think about what works for them and what doesn’t; what makes them feel joyful, proud, energized, or bored; and who they can share ideas with as they proceed. Change comes in different forms—and it can take a moment or considerably longer, but either way a little help can be beneficial.
REFLECTION #3: HOW CAN I HELP?
What requires parental attention, both in the moment and on an ongoing basis? Discern what kinds of encouragement, advice, guidance, or reinforcement you can provide to scaffold your child’s effort, productivity, creativity, confidence, and happiness. (Check out the article Requisites for Learning: The 5 Rs in The Creativity Post, with its emphasis on parents being resourceful, reasonable, responsive, receptive to changes, and respectful of children’s feelings and abilities.) Plus, think about what your child can do on their own behalf to become a motivated learner—and how to nurture that. For example, they can ask questions and ponder answers. Pursue their passions. Stay open-minded. Persist.
Additionally, give thought to what you can do together! Reflect upon quality time and familial and other supports. Discover ways of having fun. Read. Explore. And accept your child’s limitations while strengthening their desire to stretch their horizons and develop their capacities.
All these initiatives involve reflection—that is, thinking about and validating children’s efforts and achievements, including the small ones—and offering reassurance along the way. And coming full circle, ensuring that they, too, have ample time to reflect as they learn and grow!
About the Author
Dr. Joanne Foster is an award-winning author who writes about child development and gifted education. Her most recent book is Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews, 2021). For more information and for access to many articles and timely resources on children’s well-being, creativity, intelligence, productivity, and learning, go to www.joannefoster.ca.