Learning Context Is an Area Which Must Be Addressed

Learning context is an area which must be addressed if meaningful learning is to take place. All learning must be placed in the learners context if it is to have meaning.

There is actually no such thing as "new" knowledge. In order to acquire new information, the brain must place it in the context of something that is already known. You can't learn what you don't already know.

This was a difficult concept for me to grasp at first, but once I began to understand it, it made all the difference in the quality of the learning experienced by the children in my classroom. One way to think of it is that the brain has to be able to "hook" new information onto something it already knows in order for the learning to "stay put."

Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

In order to "teach to the life of the child" as suggested by neuro cognitive scientist Dr. Fritz Mengert, you have to know about the life they are living. One of the reasons children have trouble with comprehension is that passages are often completely out of their context.

In order to experience the context of my eighth grade students, I made it a point to listen to the music they liked and watch the television shows they enjoyed watching. Now, I have to tell you that after 20 years of doing this, I developed a rather skewed sense of humor, but I understood what they were thinking (even when it scared me a little!) and was able to refer to that culture to go about placing the learning in their context.

It is easy to discover what interests younger children because they are so eager to share everything with great enthusiasm. So I listened! That's how I knew that they would immediately be drawn into word wall games if I used a Star Wars light saber as a pointer.

It seems like such a small thing, but using a gadget or toy with which they can identify really helps place activities - in this case, those with word walls - in their context.

Children of all ages are attracted to the popular game "Angry Birds" so I found a way to use it to teach one of the properties of math. Angry Birds Distributive Property is so popular that my kids actually beg to do it! We also use an Angry Birds ball to play an Angry Birds Focus Game which they love.


Kids are not going to do well with word problems in math that have nothing to do with them and the life that they are living!

Textbook companies do not know my children. Their representatives do not drive through our community. So the word problems in the textbooks are often so far out of my children's learning context that they don't even register.

So I make up problems myself, using their names, which they love. I also let them make up their own problems. And guess what -- the problems they make up have meaning to them because they are in their context!!


A friend of mine who grew up in New York City told me that he was expected to learn to read from Dick and Jane books. The stories were so far out of the learning context of an inner city boy that they had no meaning for him at all. He and his classmates could not relate to Dick and Jane OR Puff!!

In order for children to learn to love reading and to comprehend what they read, the stories must be in their context!

Having children write their own stories is a great way to place reading into the context of their lives. Younger students can dictate their stories for you to write down, and group stories are fun to write, too, because everyone contributes.

Older students love to write their own stories, especially when they can also illustrate them which is a great way to integrate art which is essential especially for right brained children.

Blank books can be ordered from Bare Books at a reasonable price to give children the opportunity to write their very own hard-backed books. Kids love them, and the stories are smack in the middle of their learning context!!

Go to Comprehension from Learning Context

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Today's Children
and Television

According to A. C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of television each day. By the time a person is 65 years old, he will have spent 9 years watching TV!!!

If that doesn't scare you, these facts probably will:

Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5

Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1680

To say that television is a part of our children's context is an understatement.

Compiled by TV-Free America