Rather than thinking of students as either predisposed to genuinely love learning (or simply inclined to loathe it), a shift to a growth mindset tells us that we can influence the love of lifelong learning through common practices and healthy habits.
Teachers—as well as parents, coaches, and other adult role models—can help students cultivate a love of learning in various ways: by setting an example, participating in hands-on activities, and simply encouraging them in their academic pursuits.
There are a number of ways to cultivate a love of learning in the young minds around you every day. Read on for tips to adopt habits and practices that will help shape and positively grow these young minds, directing them toward a lifelong love of learning.
Read, Read, and Then Read Some More
Nothing helps a child more when cultivating a love of learning than reading. Studies show time and again that avid readers tend to be better students, and parents and teachers should find ways to instill a love of reading in kids from a very young age.
This starts with parents reading to babies and toddlers and moves into preschool and early elementary teachers instilling in a student that great sense of accomplishment when a child reads his first book completely on his own!
It continues throughout junior high, high school, and college years as teachers and professors introduce students to books that open up their eyes to the world around them.
Not every young child naturally loves to read, but you can help shape the habit by reading yourself. Model for young minds a preference to curl up with a good book over time spent in front of a screen. Help them choose books aligned with their interests and favorite hobbies in everyday life, and show them that the world of reading is filled with action, fun, and adventure!
Tap Into Their Interests
Just as you can point young people toward books that align with their interests, hobbies, and natural curiosities, there are numerous ways to create everyday learning opportunities for individuals based on their likes.
Suppose you have a 10-year-old boy who is a baseball fanatic and constantly updating you on the newest players drafted to his favorite team. Challenge him to make some predictions about what the players might achieve based on their statistical performance at bat—combining his love of baseball with some quick math lessons!
Keep a map handy for any situation where you can encourage interest and curiosity about the world around us. If your student or child is suddenly engrossed in a new Netflix series in the Azores, ask them to find the area on a map or globe. Hint: this is a tough one to find, making it an especially useful exercise!
Music, art, dance, athletics, and other hobbies and activities—including gaming—can easily be used to hone a student’s math, science, reading comprehension skills and more.
Make Time to Find Answers
Educators and parents are challenged by the amount of time spent answering questions, and it can be difficult to manage your time in a lesson to cover the standards and address all of your students’ curiosities. Young people are naturally curious, and sometimes the rapid-fire questions can be overwhelming for an educator.
“Why don’t dogs meow?” might seem like a silly question at first glance, but it could be an opportunity to learn something together. Use the power of Google to find out why cats and dogs make different sounds and explore the information together. This could also be a meaningful opportunity to show students how to best learn something new or research information.
An educator cannot always stop a lesson to address every question but they can jot down a quick note so they can address it with the student, or even the whole class, at a later time. Circling back in this way is very meaningful as it shows the student they are valued, and shows them the value in taking the time to learn something new.
Perhaps you could bring in a book on the subject for that student (“I remember you seemed really interested in mythology during the lesson yesterday, so I thought you would enjoy reading this”) or even recommend an age-appropriate documentary or podcast.
Hands On Activities
Not all kids love to read, but many love hands-on opportunities to learn, whether those take place in the kitchen, the art studio, the playground, or the science lab.
Use cooking as an opportunity to use science and math skills to discuss how certain foods are tied to cultural identities, and you could even throw in a lesson on inflation by talking about the cost of each ingredient in a recipe!
Simple science experiments are another way to engage young minds and make learning exciting. The prospect of mixing pop rocks candy with Coca Cola inside a balloon easily grabs the attention of younger students, and it also serves as a vehicle for teaching science!
Modeling a Love of Learning
One of the best ways teachers can have an impact on students developing a love of learning is by demonstrating it to classes themselves.
For example, a teacher might tell her students on a Monday morning about the weekend gardening class she attended at the local library and get them invested in tracking the progress of her vegetable garden, bringing in pictures each week as different vegetables begin to sprout.
By showing students you are never too old to learn new things, teachers plant the seeds for a lifelong love of learning.