Before we talk about helping children, or using the Learning Barometer, let’s imagine that you are asked by your manager to monitor your work for a week. What would your reaction be? What exactly would you do? How would your work be different? I don’t know about you, but I felt out of my comfort zone for a second. If this was your reaction, too, it might be the result of your many years of learning in school. You see, as children, we often did not distinguish monitoring from judging. Additionally, self-monitored learning was not necessarily an integral part of developing knowledge.
It is important to distinguish monitoring from judging. Monitoring is just the process of noting and seeing what you do and don’t do and how you feel about it. Judging is more akin to determining whether you are doing well or not. Typically, judgements lead to an emotional involvement in the result, whereas monitoring leads to self-awareness and the management of emotions during the process.
Children are monitoring their learning and performance when they devote some of their attention to how they feel about the learning, what they are doing, and how they are doing it. Keeping some of their awareness on the learning task, as well as how they express it, makes them partially responsible for their own learning. In elementary school, as an integral part of the process of developing knowledge in different domains, children have to develop self-regulated learning skills. And effective self-regulated learning includes planning, prioritising study tasks, allocating study time, managing emotions, and making use of appropriate study strategies.
I often say that learning is “the art of changing the brain”. For us, as parents and teachers, knowing when to step in and when to step back is another complex part of this art. But let’s not overcomplicate things. Let’s start simple. To help children learn to monitor themselves, download the Learning Barometer I have created for you and your learners. Print out one for each child and encourage them to use it every day, three to four times during a 90-minute session of learning.
A regular barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure air pressure. In the same way, the Learning Barometer can help you early on when progress during learning gets interrupted, or when you feel like things are not going well.
The spinner depicts sixteen states in the form of statements. All are related to feelings a learner might experience during the learning cycle I described in a previous blog post here. For younger children, the statements could be replaced with different faces expressing emotions.
- Why would I want to know about this?
- What’s in it for me?
- I feel excited about it.
- I have some questions.
- I want to learn more about it.
- I understand most of the work.
- I’m learning a lot today.
- The work is too hard for me.
- I wish I had more time.
- I need to practice more.
- I want to work with a partner/team.
- The work is too easy for me.
- How will I use this in the real world?
- How is this relevant in the real world?
- I find the work very useful.
- I find it fascinating!
- Go to our Teachers page, scroll down and download the free Learning Barometer. It looks and functions like a spinner.
- After printing out the spinner on cardstock, cut it out. You can even laminate it if your spinner will get a lot of use. (For a classroom or a lot of homeschool use, cut out the spinner first, laminate, then cut it out again, leaving a laminate edge of ¼-inch or so. For home use, you typically can laminate the printable page and then cut out the spinner along the lines.)
- It helps if you make a small hole in the centre of the spinner to make it easier to push the brad through. You can use the sharp point of a scissor or another tool. If you have experience working with children, you might be familiar with the signs of boredom, disengagement, or lack of motivation without an instrument, but will your children be aware of them? The learner also has to monitor and evaluate his or her emotions and work to own them and this is where the Learning barometer can help them. We have a short clip on our Facebook page on how to assemble it.
For learning to become personal, they need to sense movement in learning first, not the parent and not the teacher.
Enjoy and share your results with us! I promise to get back to you with more monitoring and self-assessment tools.
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