How to Create Lifelong Learners

We so often focus on techniques and “how”... certainly both are needed when learning. However, have you ever noticed that when anyone knows why they are learning something, their level of engagement is much higher. They learn more effectively and they tend to want to learn more.

We can create lifelong learners by helping learners understand why they are learning something.

Connect a learner to the meaning of something and they can learn anything.

When we help learners create an interest in understanding the “meaning” of something first, it leads to the learner wanting to learn over the span of their life. Here are some examples of how I have done this, and how you can too.

Surfing the Words

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  • Choose a book.

  • Choose a piece of dramatic classical or early classical music (example: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1, Festive Overture by Shostakovich, Soundtrack from any Harry Potter movie, Carmina Burana, Mozart Symphony #40, any of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances)

  • Read and change your volume, pace and inflection to match the music.

  • Choose a different piece of music and read again by changing your voice to match the music.

  • Ask your students what changed?

  • Ask your students if they want to read with music

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You’ll find the music creates a film-like experience and impacts the meaning of the story in significant ways, including subtext and foreshadowing. This also creates a strong desire to want to read.

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What to you see?

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  • Choose an image of something in nature, architecture, Art, or any other area which allows for different interpretations to take place, which is almost anything. I’ve used images of clouds, people’s faces, buildings, etc.
  • Ask your students, “What do you see?”

  • Allow time and space for plenty of responses

  • Ask your students to compare the multiple meanings of their collective responses.

You’ll find the more you play this game, the more they will see, and the number of potential meanings will continue to grow, which is the point.

Body Poems

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Let your students know that you will be stating a word, and when you do, you want them to represent all that they know about that word with their bodies. It will also help to first introduce the idea of “Using your energy” and “Holding your energy”, which is quite different than being told to stop or freeze.

  • Each time you state a word, ask them to become that word, followed shortly by saying, “hold the energy of that word”.

  • Start by stating action words (example: jumping, running, prancing, walking)

  • Continue with objects (example: ball, bubble, planet)

  • Continue with emotions (example: happy, excited, exuberant)

  • Conclude with thoughts (example: “I think I can” stated many different ways)

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Reflect with your students about how meaning is made with words. Is it simply the word? How can they create meaning throughout their day, week, month and life?

Finally, remember one of my favorite sayings, “It’s not the thing, it’s how you do the thing.” Ask great questions of your students, and yourself and stay curious!