How Do You Know if Your Students Are Ready to Learn?
Learning Readiness in the Classroom
Learning readiness is important to student success in school. If a student does not have the framework on which to place the newly learned information, they will have difficulties retaining it or even comprehending it. Students can become overwhelmed and can start to have negative feelings about school and learning.
Jeanette Vo-Vu, program specialist with the Center for School and Community Development, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory reports in the article "Critical Issue: Promoting Children's Readiness to Learn" that that there are basically two main schools of thought on learning readiness for younger children.
One asks the question about the student's ability to learn. Does the student have the prerequisite skills to learn the new material? The other asks the questions about the student's readiness to go to school. Does the student have the social, emotional, cognitive and/or linguistic ab ilities to go to school and to be successful?
When asking the question about readiness, teachers need to be specific about knowing prerequisites or having the social or cognitive abilities. For younger students, it is important for teachers need to focus on all of these areas, not just knowing the prerequisites.
Middle School Student Tips
However, middle school students have been in school for several years. The main question for them is if they are ready to learn a particular concept or new content. Although, teachers should still be aware of the other learning readiness components. Teachers need to think about many items to assess a student's readiness to learn. The following are several questions that educators can ask themselves before plunging into a lesson:
- Is the content and curriculum developmentally appropriate? Most states have standards, benchmarks and indicators for most subject areas and grade levels. If teachers are following these, then the curriculum should be on track.
- If a student has special needs, the teacher needs to be sure to follow the student's IEP or 504 plan.
- Has the teacher given a pre-test to see what the student already knows? The pretest can let the teacher know if the student is ready to learn the material or if the teacher needs to review additional information before moving on to the new content.
- What are a student's strengths? Some students can verbally tell a teacher what they know but struggle with writing. Multiple Intelligences strengths can also be good information to know the order to assess learning readiness.
- Does the teacher know the student well? Does the student have a stable home? Is English the child's first language? The answers to these questions can also help a teacher assess the student's readiness.
In the middle school classroom, the pre-test is one great way to assess students' readiness to learn. Pre-tests can be the ones that are included in the curriculum packet with the textbook. However there are a few simple ones that teacher can give to assess students' previous knowledge:
- Ask students to write the top five things they know about a topic on a note card.
- Make a list on the blackboard by brainstorming what the whole class knows about the content.
- Ask students to fill up a Post-it with all their knowledge on a topic. Then, the whole class can post their knowledge on a wall.
Learning readiness is important for student success. Giving pre-tests takes class time; however, it can be time well-spent because the teacher can start a lesson and know that the students are ready to learn it.