How To Enhance The Classroom Curriculum|
by Kim Tracy
Educators spend countless hours
designing lessons that will spark learning and creativity in our students. We all know that to introduce any lesson educators should activate any prior knowledge that the students can build upon. Many Universities are still requiring their future teachers to design lessons around the six-point lesson plan. Rarely are those used in the classroom, however the idea behind that style is how most teachers engage their lessons. For example, begin with the activating prior knowledge, next set the stage and content of the lesson, and then facilitate the direct instruction. Afterwards check for understanding, and then guided or independent practice followed by closure. All appropriate strategies to carry out lessons in the typical classroom. Yet, how can educators take this a step further and enrich the curriculum to encourage more active learning from the students?
One of the most productive strategies is to incorporate Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theories. In earlier years, when someone would mention intelligence, one would automatically only think of IQ. Now, widening that scope of intelligence understanding, Gardner has introduces us to his eight theories of intelligences: Verbal/Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal and Naturalist. Gardner is currently working on a ninth intelligence, existentialism. Teachers.Net was privileged to have a live chat session with Howard Gardner on September 28, 1999. (http://www.teachers.net/archive).
How does intelligence affect learning? Educators can chuckle at that question! Let us rephrase that question: How do teachers expectations of students perceived as low learners or high learners affect the classroom? Immensely! Every student in the classroom should be treated as an academically gifted child. Each student has his/her own intelligence although some students will try the patience of the teacher before the teacher can discover which intelligence the student possesses. Discovering which ways the student is smart and requiring high expectations for all students is imperative. Provide opportunities for students to implore their own intelligences but also to explore other areas of learning.
For example, an active learning unit on Colonies might consist of various centers that the students work on over a certain time period. Students are given a contract and must complete a certain amount of the activities. One center might be to research and design a map of the colonies by the original boundaries. Another activity is to write a series of letters to family in England regarding the events taking place in the new colonies. Graphing the population of the states during a certain year during Colonial times and compare and contrast to a current population graph. Another center might be to design a new currency in the new lands. Develop a game that might have been played by Colonial children or a musical instrument that might have been used. Design a house from the Colonial times and make a scaled version out of natural products. The ideas are limited only to the teacher's imagination and creativity.
There are other ways to enhance the curriculum in the classroom. There has been much debate over cooperative learning groups. Educators have embraced the concept, then abandoned it, embraced once again and abandoned again. From Colonel Parker in the 1800's, to John Dewey in the 1930's, to many educators in the 1990's including Spencer Kagan and William Glasser; all these educators proclaiming the benefits of cooperative learning in the classroom. In 1988, Ekwall and Shanker conducted a survey on how people learn best. "People learn.10 percent of what they read, 20 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what they both see and hear, 70 percent of what they say as they talk, and 90 percent of what they say as they do a thing." William Glasser goes a step further by stating that, "people retain 95 percent of what they teach to someone else." Understanding the debate that students are constantly relying on others to do their thinking for them, educators must find a common ground between the two. Students must learn social skills before cooperative learning can take place. Incorporating these strategies can be a challenge time wise for educators but will provide huge benefits in the end result.
Keeping in mind rules such as the ten-two rule, educators need to break up the monotony of the class period/day. The ten-two rule is ten minutes of instruction followed by two minutes of feedback. This feedback might be the students turning to each other to discuss what they just have learned or teacher-student feedback. The ten-two rule could also be two minutes of writing in a learning log what the concept was and what other questions the students still might be pondering. Along with the ten-two rule, students need breaks for stretching or relocating themselves during lessons where they are constantly sitting. As educators, we all understand how quick our minds wander when in a staff meeting for too long. For some adults that attention span might be just a few minutes while others can sustain sitting still for 15-20 minutes. Students suffer through that same attention span deficit and others experience it at a more rapid rate. Keeping that in mind, teachers need to give stretch breaks to the students to wake up the brain and refocus it back to the concept being taught.
Educators can make a huge difference in the year they are having with a student by understanding how each student learns best. Collecting learning style surveys for students will allow teachers to understand their students better and provide a more productive learning environment for each individual student. Educators have the power to enrich their curriculum, even with the stresses placed upon them with state mandated testing. Educators continue to make a difference in the lives of every student and have the opportunity to give each of those students a positive learning experience.
About Kim Tracy...
Kim Tracy is a fifth grade teacher living in North Carolina. After extensive research and training, Kim has become a Brain Compatible Learning specialist and has conducted staff development workshops in the Southeast area. Kim has been involved in other staff development by facilitating Active Learning in the Classroom workshops, Writing workshops, and Test Scoring workshops, as well as teaching computer skills to educators in her county. As a successful grant writer, Kim is currently in the process of developing successful grant writing packets for educators.
Kim received her BA in Elementary Education from St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in North Carolina and her MA in Education from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Kim thrives on teaching other educators about Brain Compatible Learning because she has seen the successes of the strategies in her classroom. Educators seeking advice with implementing BCL strategies can email Ms. Tracy at email@example.com.