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Author: Chitra Iyer
Published on:
April 29, 2022

The ‘Observe, Ask, Share’ Technique for Effective Learning at Home

We often waste opportunities to help our kids be stronger learners in daily interactions. Try this simple yet effective technique to create stronger learners at home!
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If you want your child to be a fearless explorer, let him or her be one, in the daily every day! If it means going through a stack of expensive origami paper in one night making shapeless paper planes, so be it. It’s well worth it, because what you are actually witnessing is something very purposeful and powerful. 

An Alt Approach to Exploration

Let’s say a child is examining a plug point. She has a purpose (explore the plug point), and no fear (of the consequences of playing with electricity). Our immediate response would be to stop her, chide her, fill her with fear, or just shoo her away without any explanations. 

This is a great learning opportunity lost, of course, but worse, we have just given her a lesson in ‘fear ruling purpose’. 

In the joyful learning home, everything the child engages with is a ‘learning to learn’ opportunity. Whether it is exploring a plug point, examining a flower, tearing the newspaper, or cooking by themselves. 

So, let’s try the effective (and fun) learning approach instead. 

First, avoid the desire to respond immediately with a comment, help, chide, or correct. 

Second, observe. When we are so busy focusing on our response (even if to offer praise) we are unable to see what’s actually going on. Confirm that indeed it is the plug she is interested in (and not a spider sitting in the corner next to it, for example). Revel in the wonder of seeing your child explore. 

Finally, help facilitate joyful learning and the ‘learning to learn’ opportunity. 

Try Technique! The ‘Observe - Ask - Share’ Technique for More Effective Learning

One possible way to do this is the ‘Observe, Ask, Share’ technique to help her arrive at what she finds interesting about plug points and why playing with them could possibly be dangerous. 

However you go about it, do not assume they are interested in the plug ‘as a plug’. The conversation could go anywhere – allow the child to steer it. 

Use the time to understand what aspect of the plug was interesting to your child, rather than waste the opportunity by sermonizing about the dangers of a plug or limiting yourself to a discussion on electricity. 

What interested them? Was it the function (what it does) or the design (how it looks) or the placement/ pattern (they are all around the house) or the construction (material) or history (who discovered/ invented/inspired) or social (why don’t some people have electricity?) aspects? 

As valuable an opportunity as this is for your child to learn about plugs, it is equally an opportunity for you to learn about your child. 

Observe-Ask-Share Technique in Action

Let’s say you see your child making a bunch of paper planes with their origami paper. 

Use the opportunity to have a conversation about planes with your child. No, I’m not talking about how they could have made a ‘better’ plane or you ‘showing them’ how to make a perfect one! 

I’m talking about respectfully discussing the creation with the creator. I’m talking about elevating this from a conversation about paper planes to a joyful learning opportunity that could go in any direction! 

Obviously modifying the content based on the age of the child, you could: 

  • Make observations (Oh look, this fold happened to form a perfect right angle triangle!) or (The person who invented planes probably spent all day observing birds in motion) or (I see that you have chosen origami paper instead of chart paper) or (Hey look, I can arrange the planes from small to big!)

  • Ask questions (Which paper colour did you like best?) or (what if planes really had one wing smaller than the other? What do you think would happen?) or (Can I try flying this plane?) 

  • Share (I remember making tons of planes when I was younger. I would usually make them from old newspapers, like this…)

  • Add constraints/ complications (What if we did not have any origami paper – what else could we use to make these planes?) or (What if BuzzFly Cargo got damaged – how would your company still deliver the goods?) 

Let the child lead the conversation

In any of the above approaches, be aware that the child’s response – no matter what it is (there is no right or wrong response) is the cue for your next step.

If the child is unresponsive to one approach, try another. If they are very responsive to one, take the cue and dig deeper. 

But at all times, remember, nothing is wasted – every idea is being used: absorbed, sorted, and filed by your child. You will be amazed when he or she references it out of the blue one day, making connections you may never have imagined. Some experts refer to this as the compound interest effect of learning, and it is like magic.

That is effective learning!

Also read:

All our Parent-friendly Guides About Effective Learning - the best place to start

The Power of Failing Forward: the Secret of all Genius Learners

How School Kids Can Build Self-Directed Learning Skills

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