A teacher’s challenge: keeping students switched on to learn in the classroom

A teacher’s challenge: keeping students switched on to learn in the classroom
Photo by Beth Jnr / Unsplash

It’s the first day of term and you are standing in front of a class full of beaming faces. Well, maybe not all beaming.

Some are still crying in the arms of their mums and dads.

Others are wandering around the classroom touching things.

Some are deep in conversation with a peer rather than showing any real interest in you.

You are an amazing teacher. You have prepared in depth for this new beginning, this fresh set of students eager to learn. You have planned in great detail the curriculum you will cover this term. You have carefully structured the environment around you to be brimful of exposure and opportunities for new learning. You are fresh from the latest teacher programs and strategies for literacy, numeracy, science, technology and the arts. So you feel keen and energised, ready to embark on the wonderful journey of expanding the minds of children.

There is just one problem.

For some of the students, there are barriers to how well they can access all of the information and knowledge you wish to impart.

Some of these barriers are known - handed over on a piece of paper, a meeting with their teacher last year in the busy lead-up to Christmas break, some therapy reports, or a rushed update from parents as they dropped the student off this morning.  Some are readily identifiable.

But all of these disparate bits of information don’t really prepare you to predict how these barriers are going to impact your classroom as a whole, or on each individual student’s learning journey with you this year.

Sadly, some students are faced with significant barriers that restrict how well they can learn from the environment you are setting up, the lessons you are constructing and the opportunities for the progress you foster.

Importantly, many of the barriers are subtle or poorly recognised.

They are often wrongly labelled as misbehaviour.

By recognising learning is being impeded by one or more of these barriers, where a metaphorical switch is in the off position resulting in a reduced learning capacity, teachers have the opportunity to help flick those switches back on. Teachers have the ability to increase each student’s ability to access the teaching.  Knowing that one or more of five learning switches may be OFF for any one of the students in your class is essential. This is the intent of the Turn on Learning framework.

This is the first chapter of Turn on Learning: Keeping students switched on to Learn in the Classroom (2017).

You can purchase the PDF of the book here to learn more.