Learning vs. Owning

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

| by Thuy Truong, TPT Teaching and Coaching, 9/10/2020|

When I was in the fourth grade and was still learning English as an ESL student from an immigrant family, I did something really funny. Well, it is funny to me now. I saw my homeroom teacher write with an erasable marker on a transparency sheet with a lighted projector. Then, I went home to try it with my own erasable marker because my teacher looked so cool standing next to the projector. I also thought it would save my parents tons of money if I practiced writing my spelling words on one plastic sheet with erasable ink instead of wasting limitless amounts of scratch papers. Plus, I’d look way cooler studying. But basically what I did was I took a skill that I saw and applied it in a completely new landscape. Learning sticks when the student can transfer the learning to various avenues of life. At that moment, learning becomes owning. When students own the learning, it will stay with them forever as it will become impactful in all aspects of their lives.

Four ways to help your student transform learning into owning:

1. Remember the Major Concepts

Let’s say you are trying to teach the student about organization. Even though organization is a skill, the major concept in organization boils down to having an intentional system to create order over chaos and using an organizational tool that maintains that very system you had in mind. All the student would need to remember is, organization means having a system. In this way, your student can remember the major concept easily and deeply without feeling overwhelmed about learning a new skill.

2. Use New Skills in Many Different Situations

Behind every useful skill is a major concept that can be applied in various life situations enabling the student to expand their cognitive development and learn life skills. Let’s take the skill of breaking things down into digestible pieces. This skill can be applied to homework. However, parents can show students what a stress reliever this very skill can be if applied to tasks like studying for the driver’s permit, cleaning one’s bedroom and dividing up weekly chores. When students can translate a specific skill to a host of different scenarios, they transform their learning to the next level. Students also will see how valuable learning is when they can use the exact skill for so many situations.

3. Let Your Student Solve Some Problems

Students’ creativity lies in what they do with their acquired skills. Thus, training your student to have fun with the skills by exploring out-of-the-box thinking about how they can apply what they learn is best. You can role play with your kids to see what they come up with. A good way to practice this is to talk it out with your student about possible solutions to everyday problems and let the student problem-solve using their prior knowledge. For instance, you can say: “What are some ways we can change your schedule so that you’ll have time for one more after school activity?” Let the student come up with a few different versions of their schedule and discuss pros and cons. You’ll be surprised at how creative they are.

4. Hook New Learning to Something Familiar

It is vitally important to create opportunities for students to expand their learning. If you know your student likes to take a 30-minute break before starting homework every day, then introduce the student to implement that 30 minutes towards updating their planner with new deadlines and look ahead in their schedule. In this way, you’re linking the student’s usual break with updating the planner, which is a new skill you are trying to get your student to learn and implement. The act of linking prior knowledge with new learning strengthens the student’s memory and retention.

The purpose of learning is the discovery of new paths of thinking. Students should be questioning what they learn and how they can apply these skills in many aspects of their lives. When students transform learning into owning, they dream of exciting possibilities while they learn.

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