“What are you going to do about it?” Helping Kids to Take Action

So far this year, some of our students have learned that ….

  • People’s perspectives influence their relationships with others. (Grade 4)
  • Responsible choices affect our health. (Grade 1)
  • Migration transforms individuals and communities. (Grade 5)
  • Living things depend on natural resources to survive. (KG2)

But what are the students  doing with that learning?

In the Primary Years Programme, student action is paramount. It’s the end goal of all of our learning. We want our students to take what they have learned and do something about it. But how can we as teachers help this to happen?

At our school we often discuss what “student-initiated action” really means. We are pretty clear on the fact that it means teachers cannot design the action and then oblige the students to partake in it. But does it mean that teachers should be 100% hands off when it comes to student action?

No. I don’t think so.

Just like it is our job to teach the students how to read and write and do math, I personally believe it is our job to also teach the students how to listen, how to learn, how to be kind, and – in this specific case – how to take action.

We don’t need to teach them what action to take, but we can help students learn how to take their own action.

Here are a few ideas of what we as teachers can do to support student-initiated action:

  1. Model it – Take time to explicitly point out when you as a teacher have taken action based on something you have learned.“Last night I learned that the Sea Turtles in the Gulf are becoming endangered so I decided to take action and walk to the beach and throw out some garbage.”
  2.  Explain it – We cannot expect students to take action if they don’t know what “taking action” means. Build a lesson about what is means to “take action”. Create an anchor chart that your class can refer to for the rest of the year.“Does anyone know what it means to take action?” “How have you done something to make the world a better place?” “What types of action can we take as children?” “Tell me about a time you did something because of something you learned?”
  3.  Name it – Sometimes students take action without even knowing it. That is when it is our job as teachers to notice it and point it out for them.“Wow, Ahmad you just took action by turning off that leaky tap! That is such a good way to help with the issue of water conservation we are learning about.”
  4.  Encourage it – when a student shares a discovery or a new piece of learning with you ask “What are you going to do about it?” or “Now that you know that, what can you do?” Also, build in time as a class is to brainstorm what action they could take based on what they have learned. Then leave it up to them.
  5.  Frame it – create a system in your class that encourages, recognizes, acknowledges and celebrates student-initiated action. Come up with a way for students to independently share their action with others. For example:
  • Caught-In-The-Act Badges: Have badges or necklaces available in your classroom that students can put on when they have taken action.
  • Action Wall: Designate a bulletin board in your class for the students to post something about action they have taken. It could be anything from a post-it describing their action to a photograph showing it, to a certificate for their service.
  • Action Blog: Sign your class up for a service like Kidblog to allow students to post about their action online for their classmates and parents to see and comment on.
  • Action Updates: find time during your morning circle or end of day reflections to allow students to share any action they have taken recently with their classmates
  • Action Hour: Similar to genius hour, block out a chunk of time each week for students to plan out, perform and reflect on their action.

At our school we are always looking for new ways to encourage and support our students to truly become contributing world citizens. If you have any advice about how to further cultivate a culture of taking action, we would love to hear about it.


2 thoughts on ““What are you going to do about it?” Helping Kids to Take Action

  1. mike p July 7, 2015 / 7:40 pm

    nice and concise, teacher friendly ideas/activities that are simple and very worthwhile – to modify and implement in classrooms at any grade level !!! Thanks for sharing these!
    Mike P.


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