In the traditional classroom, our students are constantly under a microscope. Students aren't just being asked to learn, they're being asked to prove what they learned. This can be a real challenge for hands-on learners and can lead to anxiety about school.
As a parent, I can tell you firsthand how discouraging it can be to watch the light that once shined so brightly in the curious mind of your child begin to dim as they lose confidence and interest in school. Suddenly, your third grader is no longer jumping out of bed in the morning, excited to seize the day and you're left wondering what happened. Or, your typical "A/B Honor-roll" student brings home a "D" with no warning and you panic.
The feelings can be overwhelming as you start to feel powerless. What are you doing wrong? How do you fix it? Do you change schools? Is it the teacher? Does my child have a learning disability?
The truth is, your child probably isn't being engaged.
Many times, students disengage because of the way a topic or concept is introduced. Hands-on learners need stimulation and sometimes the usual classroom methods just don't cut it. But how do you know if your child is a hands-on learner?
Hands-on learners usually enjoy highly engaging activities, like video games, dancing, creating art projects, and building things. These aren't your usual bookworms, but you might catch them reading a graphic novel or a joke book. Hands-on learners also enjoy telling stories and they can go on for quite a while if you ask about something that interests them.
I've discovered that with hands-on learners, there is a two-step process to learning which requires physical activity to make the connections necessary before jumping into the lesson you want to teach. Even with that, the lesson should involve activity and a ton of questions. Good teachers know this, too. Unfortunately, this personalized learning approach isn't always feasible in a traditional classroom and our educators have limited time with their students.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your hands-on learner to become more engaged, and therefore, become a more confident, successful student.
Be Informed and Aware
Pay attention to the emails that your child's teacher sends. They usually tell you what your child is learning and include links to helpful resources. If you aren't getting those emails, reach out to the teacher to make sure you're on the list. Once you know what your child is learning, you can brush up on the topic if you've become a little dusty. Being informed allows you to engage your child in conversation. If you show interest, your child will too.
Create an environment for learning at home
You'd be surprised what a quick trip to the dollar store can yield. Their education aisle is full of workbooks, manipulatives, and other classroom supplies. For $20 or less you can create a space full of resources to help your child practice their skills and re-build their confidence. Ideally, this is in a shared space so that your child doesn't feel isolated or punished and allows you to be present and participate in their learning. If you're limited on space, you can create a learning bin so that you can store the materials away when they're not in use.
Provide Support With Projects
A quick google search on the topic of what your child is learning followed by "projects at home" will yield a TON of resources and ideas for projects you can do with your child. Whether it's English, Math, Science, Social Studies, you name it, there is a hands-on project for it on the internet. Doing projects allows your child the opportunity to learn by doing or through inquiry. Your child will also learn research skills and build perseverance as they work through problems.
You can always do projects at home but learning with a group outside of school provides an opportunity for collaboration which is experience students need to be successful in school and in life.
At eSTEAM Club, we are always working on projects in the community. We start with ages as young as 4 and go up to 9th grade. We use project-based learning to teach science, technology, engineering, art, and math but students also learn teamwork, perseverance, and study skills. We've watched struggling students improve not just academically, but socially and emotionally, as well. If you're in the Gaston County or West Mecklenburg County area, you're welcome to join us for After School, Saturday Science Academy, or to take a class with us. We're always happy to help!