The Social Nature Of Learning: What Do Kids Want And Need?

As I’ve written about before, there are many different reasons that I choose to blog regularly. One of the biggest reasons is to reflect. This is true for my professional blog, but it’s also true for our Class Documentation Blog, which my teaching partner, Paula, and I post on each day. While our blog posts themselves are not necessarily highly reflective, it’s the Instagram and Twitter posts that we embed within, that are. While we attempt to make sense of the learning that we’re seeing in the classroom at the time, sometimes our understanding is further developed when we explore this learning over the course of a week. This is what I noticed this week, even if it was a shorter one (by two days) due to a snowstorm.

In a comment that I left on a recent blog post by Doug Peterson, I mentioned that we had a wonderful week back at school, and sometimes our fears can be worse than reality. I hope that this is the case here, and that the cathartic nature of blogging, helped make things better … even if only in my head.

While there were different things that Paula and I noticed each day, one element that we’ve continued to reflect on day after day is the social nature of learning, both in the classroom and outside. Even though our students were socializing with each other before as they built with blocks and LEGO, now almost everything they do is social. They’re starting to notice and comment more on what others are creating. Even options in the past that were largely independent, such as beading with Perler Beads, are becoming far more social. Below are just some (okay, many) of the posts that encapsulate these observations from the past three days: the Instagram posts are almost like mini-blog posts of their own. 🙂

While Paula and I tried to prioritize socializing, even in our virtual classroom, I have to wonder if being back in-person drives kids to want to connect. I’ve never seen so many happy children coming through the kindergarten pen each morning on their way to school. They are absolutely beaming. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. This doesn’t end in kindergarten. I just came back from a haircut, and the hairdresser mentioned that his son (in high school) was smiling from ear-to-ear after this first day returning in-person. “All it took was one day,” he said.

I know that we’re in the report card/Communication of Learning writing crunch time, and it’s hard not to want to focus on academics right now. Trying to observe and capture learning online is definitely different than in-person, and probably every educator out there (me included), is aware of this impending deadline. That said, I keep returning to this unexpected, but wonderful, reading experience from yesterday, and the social nature of even decoding signs on a bathroom door.

Are kids trying to tell us about what they need most of all, and if so, what does this look like in our classrooms and schools? Some of the protocols do not always make socializing easy, but do we need to creatively and safely find ways to make these moments happen? I would love to hear what others have done and are considering doing — across grade levels — for the connections in the past week tell me that this is what children are craving. And I think that we need to listen to kids.


2 thoughts on “The Social Nature Of Learning: What Do Kids Want And Need?

  1. It’s great to see the old Aviva back. Well, not an old Aviva, but vintage Aviva?

    I think that the fact that there are so many smiling faces tell so much about the good parts of the school experience. You’ve got me wondering and I’m pondering about our reality. Has socializing changed as a result of our reality the past few years.

    As a parent, it was always my routine to ask what they’ve done in school at the end of the day and I’d be a rich man if I had a quarter for every time I got the answer “nuthin”.

    Has everyone got a new appreciation for schools as a result? Can it be sustained? Will schools start to look different?

    • Thanks for the comment, Doug! I’m kind of happy to have the “old Aviva” back too. 🙂 You have some great questions in here that have me wondering. I might need to return to these ones in a future blog post or two.

      As many people see the numerous desks and tables in our room, you wouldn’t necessarily think that social interactions and connections are at the heart of our classroom practices, and yet, I’ve been made even more aware of this in the past week. The kids are also finding ways to socialize safely within the protocols, and I think that it’s these connections that have them excited to come back each day. The numerous posts, articles, and conversations around in-person versus remote learning and the role that schools play in society, make me wonder if there is an evolving appreciation for schools coming out of this pandemic. Now I have to think more about what “different” might look like, and the possible value in this.

      As for your question around the dinner table, it reminded me of conversations I had with my parents growing up. They always asked my sister and I about our day. Everyone always shared highlights. Now I hear parents tell me that the posts that we share on social media often get kids talking more about their day. We also usually end the day sharing highlights, and I wonder if this has kids telling families more about what they did. Hmmm … This makes me think about if the social reflection on school experiences need to also start at school.

      In terms of our own socializing, I know that I’m definitely not seeing people in many of the same ways or as frequently as I did before. Zoom is not the same, even though it might be safer. As an introvert, I’m okay with some extra quiet time, but when I do get together with others now — even online — I find I have more to say. I’m getting more involved in conversations than I did before. Is this because they don’t happen as frequently?

      You’ve giving me so much more to think about …

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