K12 Lesson Strategies - Three Easy Tweaks
May 9, 2009 Young Learners 1572 Views
Today the K12 education world has tons of experts analyzing and measuring infinite nuisances. There are plenty of learning theories old and new. Students face a raft of assessments to supposedly measure what they have learned or are capable of learning. Yet, every school day the fact remains, there is a teacher in a classroom - doing the trench work - to carve out learning in the lives of students. I've been there and I've done that successfully. Being a K12 teacher is an unforgettable experience and an awesome responsibility. Here are three easy and simple tweaks that can be done in any classroom, around the world and in any language, to expose learning opportunities and shape lifelong learning skills in the future leaders of our world.
1. Build Lessons Like Life Students today have multi-tasking ingrained in their cells, it's a 21st century survival skill. They are used to playing a video game, texting, and chatting at the same time. Imagine, taking a race horse and placing her/him on a farm in the prime of their life. That horse just may display some issues and do some serious rebelling. A lesson isn't the method to bring a student into our domain - just the opposite. As educators we must structure the lesson to capture student attention. Life brings multi faceted situations to each of us more than once a day and class lessons need to be designed the same way. A simple matrixed lesson is driven with a clear learning objective. It provides multiple activities during a class period with opportunities for students to work with other students. Teachers can include formal or informal assessments as needed. Most important, before class ends, there's time for each student to reflect on what they have learned or observed. Matrixed lessons keep student's busy learning not disrupting.
2. Lesson Delivery: Relevant Content We live in a world of 30 second sound zips that are deemed informational. Taking that into consideration is absolutely necessary when planning lesson activities and resources. It takes time to reorient student attention spans to encompass a broader perspective of thinking. Like all other teachers, I wanted to reduce the learning curve on students assimilating concepts. The easiest track I found is using real-world examples every day in my lesson. Instead of talking about the components of cells, I would discuss AIDS and cover the cell components. Instead of teaching rectangles I would talk about how much paint is required to paint the school classrooms. Instead of talking about Newton's Laws we would cover car accidents, soccer, and do car (battery operated) races. As adults we know that life arrives quickly, K12 students can perform better when our lesson structure encompasses enriching their thinking skills.
3. Pedagogy - Constructionist - Project Based Learning (PBL) Everyone generates knowledge and meaning from experiences. Learning to drive is a classic example. You can talk about it all you want, but driving a car is much different that watching a video, listening to a lecture about it, or reading a book. Jean Piaget is a favorite of mine because he integrates behavior and cognitive aspects into his ideas about learning. Using PBL in classes forces students to use their minds and to "do" the work. I've seen it over and over; students produce better individual comprehension solving problems when working with other students. Why? They learn from each other by asking questions and listening - essential behaviors for learning. When students work in groups it requires them to build broader skills than it takes to listen or watch the teacher present information. Plus, it allows students to manage each other - which they do effectively when given the opportunity while teachers practice appropriate classroom management skills. There are varying degrees of PBL complexity. An easy way to get started is with a simple project and then working up the scale. A 10 minute activity working in pairs to produce a venn diagram is an example of a simple project. Producing a play that demonstrates understanding of a famous poet is a complex example. Learning successes will show up by doing a little PBL each day. It's important to give students time to 1) understand the level of task difficulty they're assigned and 2) get familiar with project procedures. The best part of PBL is that it prepares students as lifelong learners because they're expanding their social and academic abilities. I think any teacher can use effective PBL in a class lesson, even when that lesson involves an on line resource.
Steu Mann, M. Ed. http://www.educationreporting.com/edtools/
I successfully consult educators and businesses. One project was producing a free resource of experiential learning opportunities in K12. I'm retired from my second career of teaching high school science and have Master's in Education. My passion is promoting effective K12 education and I enjoy public speaking and writing about it.