24 Big Ideas to Help Kids Grow & Learn

The Writing on the Classroom Wall: How Posting Your Most Passionate Beliefs About Education Can Empower Your Students, Propel Your Growth, and Lead to a Lifetime of Learning
By Steve Wyborney
(Dave Burgess Consulting, 2016 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

We teach lots of things in school, but we don’t tend to spend a lot of time focusing on teaching about learning. In this intriguing book, Steve Wyborney shows us how to change classroom mindsets, increase student ownership and motivation, and help students become life-long learners by using the blank space on your classroom wall to teach students about learning.

While some of his examples are related to math content, all of his short pronouncements will inspire your thinking, and all could be used or adapted in your classroom, whether you teach math or not, as these “Big Ideas” have a much deeper and far-reaching impact.

Sayings to post and to ponder

More importantly, Wyborney’s goal isn’t to give us 24 sayings about learning to post in our rooms, but to transform both our thinking and our teaching by inspiring us to deeply consider our core beliefs about learning and education and to empower our students by making these beliefs a point of focus in our classrooms.

In each chapter Wyborney takes us through some brief background (usually less than a page), gives us the “Big Idea,” explains both how he introduced the idea and “how the idea grew.” He also offers tips and warns of possible pitfalls to avoid. He then concludes each chapter with a set of key questions to ponder that surround the Big Idea.

His final chapter in the book is what he calls “Ideas that fell off the wall.” In this chapter he talks about knowing when something doesn’t work or only works for a time, and how to make the transitions to taking these ideas back down from the wall without losing the momentum of the big ideas that’s been established in your classroom.

One big idea that you should ponder is “We Learn From Our Successes.” We often focus on learning from our mistakes, but we can learn just as much from those times when things go well, if we focus on them correctly. Another big idea that I found thought-provoking was “The Clearer Your Goal Is, The Nearer You Are To It.” Much like our vision of a distant image, the better we focus and the closer we get, the clearer it is. What a novel approach to helping students learn to set goals.

I also very much liked the ideas that helped students take ownership of their learning, and encourage them to be leaders, such as “22 Teachers, 22 Learners.”

Building new ideas from previous ones

Throughout the book Wyborney continues to build new ideas based on previous ones, and he gives us a true feel of how this would look in our own classrooms. Access the book to read all 24 “Big Ideas.” Consider your core beliefs about teaching and learning, and open the door to empowering your students to become life-long learners.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Middle School Special Education Lead Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district, and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also conducts action research and facilitates Professional Development.

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