Thanksgiving arrives next week. And, although what most of us “know” about Thanksgiving is more myth than fact, setting aside a day to express gratitude is a longstanding tradition across many cultures and countries. The process of reflection and expressing gratitude has now been shown to have several health and psychological benefits. Some of which, can specifically benefit students and learning.
One process of reflection encourages students to think about their thinking. This is also called metacognition. Using metacognition as an educational strategy can help students learn to redirect themselves and preempt them from making mistakes they have made in the past. A great example of this is described in Dyscalculia: Unable to Compute in a STEM World, Chapter 10, Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities: Strategies to Succeed in School and Life with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, and Processing Disorders, authored by Daniel Franklin PhD.
Another type of reflection is writing about or discussing a concept or event using the “what, why, how” approach. This approach helps make events and concepts meaningful which in turn promotes comprehension and analytical thinking. To use this approach, first identify a concept or event – the what. Then, encourage your child to explain the why. Why is concept or event meaningful? Feel free to generously offer prompts and suggestions. The goal is to generate ideas and not make a child feel as though he or she is put on the spot. Once the meaning has been identified, discuss or write about what might happen next – how the concept can be applied, how it’s connected to something already learned, or which strategies and techniques can be used in the future, now that this information is known.
Reflection can also be practiced in the “typical Thanksgiving” way by helping children make a list of all of the people and things they are grateful for. In adults, gratitude has been linked to improved brain function, better sleep, greater levels of patience and higher levels of happiness (http://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/). It stands to reason that if we are happier and more patient, then our kids will be happier and more patient. And if our kids are happier and more patient, they will be in a better place to learn and retain new information.
At Franklin, we believe all children are capable learners and can be successful students. We are grateful for the opportunity to help and participate in our students’ educations. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.