“When I was a kid, I didn’t do too well with eating my vegetables. My mom, wanting to see some eaten, offered me plenty of salad dressing to eat with the vegetables I wouldn’t, and I got awfully fond of salad dressing.”
When I growing up, I didn’t have a choice about eating my vegetables. I was told that I couldn’t leave the table until I finished all my food. When my children were little, they didn’t always eat their vegetables but we didn’t always force them. We decided that they needed to try anything we put on their plate and eat at least three bites. Many times they found out that they liked the taste and it was better than expected. Sometimes they found out that they really didn’t like it at all but at least they tried. I have to confess that my daughters ended up with better eating habits than I ever did. My youngest daughter has tried many foods that I never would never have tried. I ended up being a picky eater (according to my husband).
I started to think about how schools do the same thing. If we force students to learn by not allowing them to be creative, making them “fit the mold” by having everyone do the same thing in the same way, and not giving alternative assessments, I think that we are turning them into picky learners. These learners end up hating learning and are not willing to try anything new. In fact, they tend to be fearful and skeptical of anything new that comes their way. When something new crosses their desk, they wrinkle their noses and believe that there is no way that this can be a good thing.
Maybe we need to have our students do the three bites system. Have them try something new and after three bites, assure them that if they don’t like it, you are willing to help them explore something new. I’m not talking about changing the skills and concepts that have to be taught. I’m suggesting that we have them try different ways of practicing these skills or studying and even how they show they understand the information. Some students may do better with flash cards and others may not. I had students who were fantastic artists but never allowed to use this strength to show they understood the material. Instead they had to use their weakness (reading and writing) to show their understanding and of course, they were unable to succeed. This didn’t necessarily mean they didn’t understand but instead just reinforced the fact that they had trouble with reading and writing.
What would happen if we gave students this “three bite” method? I believe that if we did this, our students would end up being more successful in the classroom. It might not happen overnight (neither did learning to eat vegetables), but in the long run, it will be well worth the effort.
How do you get students to try new things in your classroom? Please share.
Image: 'Arcadia, California'