What does a bridge actually do? It connects two places that are usually hard to get to. A bridge is created to help us get from one place to the other. For kids who begin to fall, we must start to build bridges quickly. If they can’t move from one place to another, they lose motivation. This often creates a downward spiral that is hard to reverse. Falling kids need bridges and it’s up to us to create them daily. Let’s look at why this is important…
So many children simply cannot make connections between what they are learning and why they need to know what they’re learning. If something has no ‘value’ to me or if I can’t see the value in learning it, I won’t invest time and energy into truly learning it. If there’s no value in learning this, then why should I attend to it? Why should I invest my time and effort into learning it? Consequently, performing a task or participating in a lesson is done because someone else told me to do it and that someone else is in a position of authority so I’d better do it!
Here’s a true story to illustrate this point: Young learners are working with a teacher in a small group. The teacher has a large chart on the floor. On the chart are 3 categories: Air, Water, Land. There are lines to separate these categories. The teachers asks children to help her put the right figurines into the right categories. She holds up a plastic horse and the children say, “Put it under “Land.” She holds up a small airplane and says, “Where should we put this one?” The kids shout, “Air.” Now in theory, this is a wonderful lesson for teaching children to search for common characteristics and then categorize items. The problem however, is that these children had no idea WHY they were doing this, nor was there any connection to WHY these needed to know this. They simply participated in this planned activity and then got up and went to other activities around the room. When I asked some of the children in this group why their teacher had them do that activity, many simply answered, “I don’t know. We just did it!” What good is the wonderful activity if a bridge is not created to the actual learning outcome for the activity?
If we don’t make connections for children and give them ‘real’ reasons for why they need to learn what we’re trying to teach them, they will simply do it because they were told to. This leaves them with fragmented pieces and isolated skills. As teachers and parents, we must strive to connect what we want kids to know with ‘why’ we want them to know it. In the lesson described above, it would have been much more meaningful if a bridge had been created for these children. The lesson could have begun with a lively discussion of how grocery stores are organized! Most kids know grocery stores! They can come to understand why categorizing items and foods is necessary and important. They can then be lead to analyze characteristics of foods in order to put them into a category. This understanding is supported by the Land, Air, & Water activity. Once the activity is over, we must create a bridge for students so that they see the value of knowing how to categorize items. For instance, we might ask them to check out their kitchen cupboards and make a list of how things are sorted in these cupboards. The same idea could be applied to our dresser drawers or our books in the school library.
Creating bridges is a vital part of what we, as teachers and parents, do if we are to move kids forward. So many falling kids cannot make connections on their own, for a million complex reasons. When we create bridges for kids, we give them reasons to attend, to engage, and to apply what we’re teaching them. Think back to the best teachers in your life. I guarantee that they created bridges for you so you could cross from one place to another.
LEADERS OF KIDS MUST CREATE BRIDGES FOR KIDS!