How do you learn?

May 3, 2012

I woke early in Paris, still getting over jetlag. My daughter slept. She is comfortable in her tiny apartment where she has spent the last four months whilst studying at The Sorbonne. As I lay there, I checked Twitter and linked my way through to some blogs. This habit is strangely refreshing even at the start of the day, even while I am on holidays and taking a break from my class. I guess when you are a teacher; you have an innate love of learning. You look for learning everywhere.

The first post I read for the day was from What Ed Said. She asked, “What are your beliefs about learning?” I pondered this question all day. I thought about it as my daughter pulled out the map and showed me where we would go. I thought about it as she translated the information about hiring a ‘Vélib’ bicycle. I thought about it as she rode along the Canal Saint Martin in front of me, so that I wouldn’t get lost in the busy traffic to Place des Vosges. I thought about it when she ordered our coffees in French and as we made our way up the stairs of Victor Hugo’s house. I thought about it as she purchased groceries to make me dinner on her one pot stove.

I remembered how lost she used to get when she first got her drivers’ license and didn’t even know her way to familiar places. I remembered the 6 year old she once was, who had no interest in taking the ‘trainer wheels’ off her two-wheeler bike. I remembered her grappling with concepts in high school novels. I remembered her not knowing how to make tomato soup, even out of a tin.

Yet, she has had an interest in France and its language for as long as I can remember.

“How do you learn?” I asked her at the end of the day. “How do you know how to read such complicated maps now? How did you master riding a bike? How do you manage always speaking in a foreign language? How did you learn to cook? How did you read ‘Les Miserables’ in French”

We discussed the possibilities of how she mastered so many things for the duration of my stay.

There are so many ways we learn.

Yesterday I posed the question to my class on Edmodo. I love their answers. I am probing them with more and more questions as to why they think they learn that way.

What about you? How do you learn? Do you learn from your PLN?



  1. I’m glad my post resonated for you and I love your response! I’d love to see some examples of what your students said.

    • Thanks Edna, I do really enjoy your thought-provoking posts. My class do a multiple-intelligence test at the beginning of the year so when I asked the question, as I expected they sent me the answer to their test again.
      Student 1- I am self smart
      Student 2 – me? I’m music smart
      Student 3- Hey Mrs Froggat,
      Yeah, I am self-smart.
      Student 4- I’m Picture smart
      Student 5 – I am logic smart
      Me – You are telling me what you know from a test. I want stories. I want to know examples of how you discovered something by the way you learn. How does a person who is self smart learn how to remember a grammar rule? I am curious to know what you think.
      Student 5. – I think I learn best when I am around people but I like working on my own in matrix
      Student 6. – I am very wordy and like to read facts.
      2 hours ago
      Me – ….., that is good that you know that you need to work independently during Matrix. Why do you think that is? When do you learn best from people.
      56 minutes ago
      Me – ….., how are you wordy? Do you like to talk, or write, or read? Give me an example if you can?
      56 minutes ago
      And so the conversation begins. This is not compulsory, this is just for fun. They don’t have to participate.

  2. Today I took on another identify to help my students learn. I put on a wig, lab coat, glasses and put a magnifying glass in my pocket. I called myself Professor Klekkloffen, the scientist. With a funny accent and lots of drama, I taught science to my year 1 students. They were excited and motivated as was I. Have decided that Professor Klekkloffen will be a weekly visitor. I think we learn by playing, by engaging and being engaged. Am now wondering if I could become a character for all the key learning areas I teach. Why not?

    • I love this Anne! Sometimes I think I teach much better when I am a different character. I did this more when I taught Kindy.
      Today in Year 5 we were decoding Word Problems in Numeracy. I asked them what ‘decoding’ meant.
      Someone responded that it was like getting a magnifying glass and looking for clues.
      Suddenly we were all detectives, pulling our imaginary magnifiers out of our pockets. Some students had glasses that were camouflage colour and especially useful in the snake pit in the jungle for measuring the area of sinking sand etc.
      The drama began and so did a fresh determination to find the tricky words in the Maths problems. Learning is fun when we play games.
      I love your character idea. I’d love you to visit my class.

  3. Learning is a combination of interest, decision and motivation. If you are fascinated by something, you want to pursue it, if you commit to something, you will master it, if you set positive goals for yourself, you can (slowly, steadily) reach them.

    When I got my license, I made a decision to figure my way around the city. I got lost. I used my iPhone maps while driving. I followed the blue dot. I drove to the airport. I ended up in kings grove. I cried. I suppose it’s the theory of making mistakes, trial and error until you learn. Who is that? His name starts with P. I learnt that theory in one of my three weeks of studying education, which I quickly dropped because I realized education was not for me. I wasn’t interested in the theories. I was not motivated to be a teacher. I could not commit to it. So I chose to study what stirred me- and after a couple of degree changes, ended up in international studies and communications- an ideal choice for me (but also a combination I had to settle on, leaving other possibilities like law or theology for later in life (?))

    It’s true that once you make that decision, you immerse yourself. I have always been fascinated by international affairs, but it also easily goes over my head. I got myself a subscription to the smh, I started watching Monday night abc, I scouted out trustworthy sources of news and I asked questions. I have found that I learn a great deal through conversation. If I get the right people around me, they can help me learn, and direct me to the tools I need. The amount i know is so little, so I humble myself and my gut feelings to weigh up the odds then come to my own conclusions.

    It’s the same with French. I immersed myself and failed several times. I shyly tried to speak French with my host family six years ago. I had no idea what was being said. I had to humble myself and ask them to speak slowly. I had to be bold. I had to speak words. They would not come out in clear sentences but together they formed to make something that could be understood. But I had to make another decision to get better after that. Where I can speak a language, I am now learning to perfect it. To get the grammar right. It is still such a stretch. I get things wrong all the time and I’m thankful to have people who correct me. 

    You throw yourself in the deep end, (and because I’ve got God) you learn how to swim. 

    An then certain areas come more naturally, the desire to read and write, the ability the think and dream in metaphors. I’m not saying that I am great at this, but studying these things fuel me because I am passionate about it. I am immediately drawn to study these things and don’t find it hard to surround myself in it. 

    You immerse yourself. You make decisions everyday to keep swimming. And you enjoy the movement. You feel less tired. The strokes become soothing. You find time to think. You remind yourself of the motivation- which become less and less an attainable goal of reaching the end of the pool, and more and more enjoying the stroke.

    It is no longer about completing the international herald tribune so you sound smart. It is taking the article that interests you slowly as you sip your coffee and eaves drop the conversations around you and ask yourself what this article means in the grand scheme of things. 

    You start off broad and you narrow in. You plan your time and you find satisfaction. You set goals and you be good to yourself when it is too hard. You work and you treat yourself. You run and you pause. You let the things that surround you speak to you, and you learn from everyone and everything. Learning is a pleasure not a task. But perhaps you wouldn’t know the pleasure of you didn’t dive in. 

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