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Authentic Experiences Encourage Learning

Use authentic experiences to encourage learning.

Authentic experiences encourage learning! My son became interested in learning Portuguese after being assigned to Team Brazil during soccer camp.

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I don’t write about it much on this blog, but in one of my pre-kid lives I taught French. I had lofty plans of raising bilingual French-English speaking children, but have, thus far, fallen short of that goal. Authentic experiences encourage learning, and I was struggling to create authentic French language experiences for my kids. I was exposed to French by living in France and going to French public schools, and it felt like everything tried living in the United States fell short. Add in speech and a few other developmental delays, and I set my raising bilingual children goal aside.

As it turns out, I was over thinking things. Emma has always been interested in French, in part because I did speak French a lot at home when she was a baby and toddler. Our trip to Montreal solidified her interest. Johnny and Lily play along, but they don’t share Emma’s passion. Then this summer, Johnny and Emma both went to one week of soccer camp, which they loved. Johnny was assigned to Team Brazil, and suddenly he wanted to learn Portuguese! I don’t speak any Portuguese. Thanks to the excellent and free duolingo app, Johnny has been busily learning Portuguese ever since. I don’t know that he will become fluent in Portuguese, but I believe that any exposure to other languages is a net positive for kids – speaking from experience. There are also quite a few similarities between Portuguese and French.

A little context - even something as simple as setting dishes on a table - encourages engaged learning

Contextualization has a huge impact on language learning – by making the experience, once again, more authentic. I have tried a few French resources for the kids, and so far this one is our favorite. The kids enjoy learning vocabulary and then putting it to use by identifying the objects as they would be used in everyday life. Having a little color helps, too!

Authentic experiences help with all learning – not just language learning! That’s why it is important for kids to learn about careers that use the skills they learn in school, and for kids to experience hands-on learning through experimentation rather than simply learning through books and worksheets.

What authentic learning experiences has your family enjoyed recently?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

14 thoughts on “Authentic Experiences Encourage Learning”

  1. Contextual learning is really interesting. I think sometimes it can be actually harder like I am thinking about math word problems but in the end you learn more and can then apply to real life! Thanks for making me think today!

    1. That is a good point with math problems. Well-written word problems can be entertaining to solve – and I think that is the key – to make challenging concepts interesting, and (as you said) more applicable to real life.

  2. That is wonderful that your kids expressed an interest in learning and you were able to provide it immediately before their interest waned. I thinking timing is everything. But also exposure to other cultures through travel can also make kids realize the value of learning a few phrases or more of another language. I hope it works with my kids … we are trying to learn Spanish and Chinese. It’s very slow going though.

    1. I think kids learn a lot from learning foreign languages at any level, even if it is only a few words and phrases. Travel is a wonderful way to get kids interested in other cultures!

  3. Elisa | blissfulE

    I appreciate that Nikki’s new violin and cello teacher creates an authentic learning experience for her by playing a lot of duets with her during her lessons. Nikki enjoys the opportunity to perform and harmonise, and any mistakes are highlighted quite naturally and corrected in a straightforward way, whether it’s an issue with rhythm, tone, or anything else.

  4. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    Very interesting point about learning in context. I think the concept is similar to project-based learning, and I really wish more of that was done in school. I heard your school district rocks in context-based learning :)

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