Why Can't High School Classrooms Be More Like Elementary Classrooms?

       Every level of schooling from elementary school to high school has its challenges.  Among them are teaching to the academic and age level of the students.  No one wants second graders to read high school level novels and it wouldn't be appropriate to take 15 minutes of class time to explain to high school students how to use scissors.

       However, when teachers create a learning environment in their classrooms there are some aspects of learning that are true for both elementary and high school students.  One of these is the idea that when students are engaged in their learning, they tend to do better.  There are plenty of reasons why this makes sense, and they apply to little kids as well as teenagers (and adults).

       In elementary school, while it may be true that the children are more excited about learning and school just because little kids are generally happy and willing to do what they are told to do; it is also true that their teachers work hard to make the learning engaging.  Look at this list of aspects of an elementary classroom, and consider which (if any) could not also be aspects of a high school classroom:

  • motivating posters on the walls
  • opportunities for students to be out of their seats often
  • opportunities for students to talk with each other during a lesson
  • working in whole groups
  • working in small groups
  • working individually
  • using educational technology
  • students given choices (perhaps about what to read or where to sit or how to solve a problem)
  • calling on every student every day
  • classwork that is challenging ("too easy" is boring and "too hard" can lead to disinterest)

       The things that make elementary classrooms fun and interesting can be replicated in our high schools.  High school students like to learn.  They also like to receive a gold star and a smiley face every once in a while.  They like to get out of their seats during a class activity and they like to ask questions of their peers to help them to understand a new concept.  High school students like motivational posters on the walls and they like to use educational technology.  All of these things keep high school students engaged in the learning process, even when the learning is difficult.

       There should be more similarities between our elementary and our high school classes when it comes to engaging students to learn.

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