Chapter 6: Active Learning
Well what do you know, the most significant learning experiences I've had in my life have been from actually doing what I was learning. Yes, the textbooks, and websites, and lectures, helped set up learning, but what really cemented knowledge acquisition was doing them.
You'll remember Edgar Dale's Cone of Learning from your university days. It makes sense that the highest retention rate happens when students do what they are supposed to be learning. Giving your students the opportunity to practice what they are learning and talk about it will make your class one of the most successful!
Solarz offers up 6 great ways to integrate active learning in your practice. but I will focus on simulation, because it's the one that transfers easiest to my job now as a grade 1 & 2 French Immersion teacher! (also, simulations are the best and tons of fun!)
What is simulation?
A friend of mine once called what we do "edu-tainment".
I think that great word is a start to describing all the crazy things teachers do! I love all the fun, imaginative things I get to witness and take part in as a teacher, and simulations allow me to do even more of that, with pedagogical goals in mind! As a teacher, you have the power to completely overhaul your students' classroom experience. Since you want learning to stick, and be as memorable as possible, why not have your students experience the concept you're teaching? At first, this requires a lot of creativity, and planning, but after a while, it becomes second nature!
Here is a most recent classroom example. A few weeks ago, I began a unit on transportation with my grade 2 class. The central idea is transportation systems are created to meet the needs of people. Throughout this unit, students will learn about different modes of transportation, how they evolved as responses to different people's needs, and their effects on the environment. The stage was set for The Amazing (grade 2) Race!
Our first simulation was driving to New York City! Students created their driver's licenses (probationary, of course!) and their passports (great way to integrate some math -measurement- in there!). We made steering wheels out of straws and connectors, and each got in our own "cars" (chairs moved to the front of the class). Excitement levels were high, and that's something that happens with simulations- student engagement! We buckled our seat belts, and drove off to The Big Apple, watching a driving simulation from YouTube. I joked with a few my students that their inattention to the road or speeding might cost them their license, and this prompted a great discussion- shouldn't some of us be getting in the same car as our friends? It's not very good for our planet to take 19 separate cars to the same place, we should share! One student said we should have taken a bus. Another student said his dad's car is electric, so that's good for the environment.
That discussion maybe could have taken place without the simulation. But my students were engaged, had fun, and will remember the loud afternoon we drove down to NYC! Since we need to cross a border to get the city, they even got to experience a border agent verifying their passport (your truly) and get a new stamp in their passport. Who said learning can't be fun?
I hope this book, or this blog, prompts you to try one of the 6 suggested forms of active learning in your classroom! There is so much fun to be had by experiencing learning first-hand, no student should miss out!
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