Engaging and talking to children

How to involve children in learning about your farm, with tips for keeping them engaged and interested.

We learn by doing better than by watching or listening

'I am told, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand' Chinese proverb

The following strategies may help you engage pupils in active learning:

  • Aim for a balance between giving information by telling and asking questions. For example, “This is milking parlour machinery” or “This is quite a complicated set of equipment. How do you think it works?”
  • Vary the type of question you ask - from simple closed questions that only require recall or simple comprehension, to observation questions, asking pupils to describe what they see.
  • Try asking more demanding questions which require pupils to use the information you have already given them and then to reason “What would happen if…?”
  • Ask pupils to evaluate alternatives or give the advantages and disadvantages of different courses of action.
  • If you have trouble creating thought-provoking questions, try those which start with 'why' or 'how'. Putting one of these words in the front of almost any statement can help change it into a question. 'What would happen if….' is also a useful phrase for the start of a question.

Questioning skills checklist:

  • Ask questions which make pupils think but can be answered successfully
  • Give pupils time to think and do not answer your own question!
  • Use your body language (eye contact, smiling, nodding) to encourage responses
  • Praise or acknowledge correct responses
  • If no answer comes, ask the question in a simpler way
  • Make questions short and clear using straightforward language
  • Distribute questions widely around the group.

Learning by discovery, creative learning and enquiry-based learning

For the majority of students a farm visit will be a new experience and they will be keen to find out what happens on a farm. An enquiry-based approach to the visit will help pupils to learn and also remember what they have seen and been told. Try to:

  • Identify questions, issues and problems as starting points for discussion
  • Involve pupils as active participants in the visit
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to use a wide range of skills or abilities - intellectual, social, practical, communication
  • Ask open-ended questions in which attitudes and values can be clarified and an open interchange of ideas and opinions can take place
  • Present opportunities for fieldwork and/or data collecting
  • Allow pupils to assist you in simple tasks.