Teaching by example does not have to be a formal initiative with objectives, lesson plans, hand outs and carefully constructed visual aids. You don’t need an extensive budget or finances to purchase teaching aids, white boards, black boards, smart boards, special books, . . . OH and this list could go on and on. You don’t even need to have a carefully constructed and place in your home. Make it simple. Make it informal. Make it work within your means.
How does one do it? Again, simple. Make every moment a learning moment. Demonstrate what active, engaged learners look like. Let your children and students see that you don’t know everything and where you get the information. Talk aloud as you are doing something so they can be part of your learning process.
Here are some quick tips:
- Answer questions with questions. “I wonder why there is fog sitting on top of the corn field?” Instead of answering the question, ask one back. “That’s a good question. I wonder where we can get the answer.” You want to give the tools for them to find the answers later when you are not around to answer. This is one of the foundations of a lifelong learner -knowing one’s resources for information.
- Let your children see you read. Not just magazines. Real non-fiction books.
- Read daily with your children. My children are teenagers now, but we still read daily. We have chosen to read from the scriptures each night. We also choose books that we want to read and talk about what is happening.
- Let your children see you learn. Talk about what you are learning now. If you aren’t learning something new, make a resolution to do so! Make learning part of your daily initiatives. My children witness me reading. They also see me trying something new by cooking, designing something. Let them watch you problem solve.
- Let them solve the problems. My brake light went out. Instead of taking it in or fixing it myself, I assigned my 13 year old son to fix it. At first he was shocked, “Mom, are you kidding? I don’t know how to do that.” I responded, “That does seem like a heavy job. I wonder where we can figure out how to do it.” He paused for only a second before jumping onto YouTube and searching out the answer. It took him twice as long to fix that light than if I had done it, but when he bounced into the front door, ecstatic because he had done it, I couldn’t help but hug him. He was thrilled to have figured out his own problem. Never take away this type of victory by supplying all of the answers.
- Praise. Praise. More praise. I cannot emphasize this enough. Focus on the positive and they will respond.
- Talk through problem solving. My children joke that I am losing my mind because I am constantly talking to myself when they are around. They have yet to recognize that I do it for them. Example: One of our puppies had chewed the corner of a piece of wood furniture. I was less than thrilled with a great desire to throttle both the teenager who wasn’t watching the puppy and the puppy as well. I looked at the piece, swallowing my frustration and found the strength to make it a learning moment. “Well, how irritating. Peanut chewed on the furniture. I wonder if I could fix it.” I knelt down and looked carefully at the destruction. “I wonder if I could spray paint it? Hm. Maybe I can color it with markers or crayons.” I ran my fingers over the spot and made a quick glance to make sure my son was paying attention. “I’ll check online and see what experts recommend. (The solution was that we found a crayon the same color, melted it in the microwave and painted it on the spot. It appears perfect.)
- Watch documentaries, HGTV, History Channel, DIY, etc. Find your passion and let your children see you learning about it.
- Use the library. Show them the library -online version and physical version.
- Set learning goals weekly. Each week we start off by setting a goal of what we want to learn. Then we have a special treat on Friday after school and talk about how we achieved the goal. This week, we are going to have frozen custard at one of our favorite places!
There are so many ways to make teaching by example a simple process. What are some which have inspired you?
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.