Monday, December 7, 2009

Learning to Ride a Bicycle

bicycle When it is not raining, my husband and I try to walk in the park for exercise. It always makes me smile when I see a parent trying to teach their child how to ride a bicycle. I usually see this in the spring and the summer or right after Christmas. The fun part for me is to see the different techniques that parents use to teach their children. It seems that the most important part, no matter how different the techniques, is that the child trusts the adult.

It made me realize that when teaching my students, I need to get them to trust me. If I don’t have this trust, I’m not sure they will ever be ready to learn independently. I know that I teach my students content but I also know that there is no way that I can teach them everything they need to know in one year. They need to learn how to learn so they can continue to learn when they are no longer with me. Just like teaching a child to ride a bike, just because they learn to balance and move forward without falling, they still need to learn other things.

I remember for a long time my father would push me on the bicycle and I would pedal as fast as I could. But once he let go, my bicycle would wobble and then I would fall. I look back now and realize that I was learning on a bicycle that was too big for me. When I would start to wobble, I couldn’t put my feet down to catch myself. I know when I fell a lot, I didn’t even want to get on that bicycle. I think my parents thought I would never learn to ride a bicycle! Do I do that when I teach my students? Do I have them on levels too high that when they falter, they can’t catch themselves? When they keep falling, they are afraid to try again.

After I had been riding a bicycle for a few years, my cousin who lived in the city came to visit me for a week. She really wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle so I agree to teach her. I decided that I was not going to teach her the way people taught me. I thought about how I wished someone had taught me and showed her these things so I wasn’t surprised how easily she learned in one day. I brought her to a hill and let her sit on the bike with me as I rode down the hill. She was able to feel how it should feel if she was alone. Now of course, she was able to put her feet down on the ground while sitting on the bike which really helped. I had her glide down the hill without pedaling so she could learn how to balance. We only focused on one skill at a time and when she was able to balance on the bike easily, we added pedaling. By the end of the day she was riding the bicycle as easily as me. I was surprised when I searched the internet for this topic and someone actually wrote about this as an alternative method so I will share it with you: Learning to Ride a Bicycle.

That is how I like to teach new skills to my students. I think about the end result that I want my students to achieve and then break it down into smaller steps for them to succeed at. When I model the skill for them a few times, it is like taking them on a ride with me so they know how it feels, how it looks like, and how to get to the end point. Then I find a way for them to “coast down the hill” for a taste of success. This may call for a lot of encouraging, and prompting but eventually they get there. Once they learn how to do one step on their own successfully, it is time to move to the next step.

I think learning new skills are a lot like learning how to ride a bicycle. This is also a great way to share this with the students and hope they can be successful.

Original image: 'IMG_3836.JPG' by: eyeliam


CozyStitches said...

My mentor teacher told us (my entire class of pre-service teachers): Trust up, Fear Down. As you stated in your blog if students trust you, they will learn faster. If they fear you, their trust is lower.

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Sarah Lawson said...


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