“Knowledge of students includes both knowledge of the particular students being taught and knowledge of students’ learning in general. Knowing one’s own students includes knowing who they are, what they know, and how they view learning, mathematics, and themselves. The teacher needs to know something of each student’s personal and educational background, especially the mathematical skills, abilities, and dispositions that the student brings to the lesson. The teacher also needs to be sensitive to the unique ways of learning, thinking about, and doing mathematics that the student has developed. Each student can be seen as located on a path through school mathematics, equipped with strengths and weaknesses, having developed his or her own approaches to mathematical tasks, and capable of contributing to and profiting from each lesson in a distinctive way.” (Mathematics Learning Study Committee, National Research Council, 2001)  By taking the time to learn about our students, we can be more effective educators.  Knowing their interests, learning styles, and personalities will give us incredible insight to how our students learn and ways to motivate them. 

I always start the school year with students making a portfolio that has student favorites and what I want to be when I grow up.  These pages are a quiet activity for students to do as they slowly mingle into the class on that first day of school.  Once class begins, I get students to interact by playing bingo based on student interests.  The Bingo game gets the students really talking which quickly leads into a 4 corners game for me to see students interests without filling out a survey.  I later use their portfolio to create a small data base on student interests to help with group of students later in the year.  The second day of school is when I focus on learning styles.  Using a learning styles survey, The student each identify their personal learning style in groups.  Then the students are grouped together based on their learning styles to help them make a chart about ways they learn best.  It is fun to have the students make a wordle with what they put on their charts.  These charts serve as regular reminders about how to frame my lessons so I can include and engage all students.  At the beginning of the second week of school, I dig into Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences with the students.  I use images to help students identify the various intelligences and discover which one they relate to most.  I use what they identify with to help me group students throughout the year, specifically trying to create a balanced mix of students with different intelligences to allow the talents of each student to shine in their personal way.  As a class, we use the multiple intelligences to create study guides and spaces for each student.  While I have had to adapt these lessons based on the grade I teach and the classroom environment I use the same concepts with each new group of students so help me find ways to connect to my students.  The connections with students are invaluable as the year progresses. 

Here are a few tools to help teachers and students gain insight to about how students learn.  Or you can check out my pinterest site for more resources: http://pinterest.com/bbarnowsky/connecting-with-students-and-learning/

On-line learning survey


Multiple Intelligence Assessment




Mathematics Learning Study Committee, National Research Council. (2001). Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics. (pp. 378-379). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9822&page=378

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