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The Power of Active Learning

A group of children actively learning.

Curiosity is the foundation of active learning. Thankfully, children come by both naturally with their imagination and inquisitive minds. They ask questions, seek understanding of the subject matter, and relate it to what they already know. 

But often, once children start school, that curiosity that supports active learning starts to fade due to increased passive learning. Although there are some benefits to passive learning, active learning should be encouraged whenever possible.

Active vs. Passive Learning

Passive learning is when students receive information through reading and listening, and reflect internally on what they learned without further review or engagement with the material. 

Active learning involves more engagement from the student since they are more involved with the learning process. They dive deeper into the material with their teachers and peers before internalizing it and relating it to their real-world experiences. Active learners participate in interactive discussions and activities related to the material and engage in quality study time—often using various study styles to absorb the information. 

Read more about the difference between these two learning styles, including the pros and cons of each here.

Even though learning can sometimes be passive—sitting in a classroom, taking notes—the brain should always be turned on, actively thinking about new material.

Encourage Active Learning in The Early Years: Kindergarten to Grade 2

Parents play a significant role in providing structure and guidance in the early grades. Children’s habits in these grades will stay with students, so it’s important to build the right skills early on.

Here are some tips for encouraging active learning in the early years:

  1. Ask questions to ignite their thinking. Questions like “What do you think you might learn?” during the activity to make connections or “What does this remind you of?” afterward to encourage reflection!
  2. Create learning experiences that encourage the use of all five senses. 
  3. Participate in outdoor learning activities.
  4. Use role-play or crafts to build storytelling skills and grow their creativity.
  5. Building blocks help develop problem-solving skills through trial and error and the ability to identify spatial relationships and relative weight, size, and balance.

Encourage Active Learning in The Middle School Years: Grade 3-8

Grades three through eight are essential in terms of development and progression. Students draw on established skills and continually apply learning skills in new situations to progress successfully to the next grade. Get help as soon as something is off track.

Some tips for these crucial years include:

  1. Prompt in-depth conversations about school and learning with your child—we’ve compiled a list of after-school questions you can ask. 
  2. Incorporate more physically-active learning activities such as science experiments, games, building models, and other hands-on projects. 
  3. Encourage discussions of the material with friends and peers. Some students learn better when they are taught the material by someone else!
  4. Problem-solving activities, diagrams, multimedia presentations can support mental stimulation and involve more engagement from the student. 
  5. Use music, art, and pop culture to help students relate the material to what they know.

Encourage Active Learning in The High School Years: Grade 9-12

In high school, every grade counts, and students feel lots of pressure to get top marks. Every quiz, assignment, essay, and test matters, and students should look for strategies and ideas to make studying and learning easier. Active learning helps students get the most out of their in-class time, and it helps make studying simpler.

Teens can become more active learners by:

  1. Reflecting on what they learned in the previous class before the next class. This primes their brains to review the information and prepares it for something new!
  2. Participating in class discussions, even if they don’t have the correct answers. This allows them to think actively in class and listen to their peers. 
  3. Taking hand-written notes. Even in our digital age, handwriting study notes has many benefits
  4. Attempting to find patterns or similarities to other information they’ve learned. 
  5. Setting academic goals. Looking ahead and asking, “what’s next?” allows students to control their learning and be better prepared for upcoming tests and assignments.

In Summary, Engagement is Key!

In order to engage students in the learning process, we need to build active learning into their lives, in and out of the classroom. Engagement increases attention, sharpens focus, motivates students to expand their thinking, and promotes meaningful learning.

Contact your local centre today if you want to learn more about how Oxford Learning can help your child become a more active learner and get the most out of their education! 

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