By Lani Aquino
Whether a teacher’s experience spans two years or thirty-two years, there are likely to be some key lesson plans that have been used throughout it. Being an expert in a curricular area and exploring a variety of ways to share that curriculum with students are at the forefront of what teachers do. Sometimes it can easy to lose sight of new ways to explore the curriculum because something tried and true has seemingly worked well in the past.
Like any other profession, education is evolving. It is important that teachers, students, and lessons evolve along with it. This doesn’t have to be a reinvention of the wheel, but it may look like more of an update that adds new bling and style to its tired spokes. As teachers brush off the tried-and-true activities, it’s important to view them through the lens of the current student population and what’s best for engaging students and preparing them for whatever the future may hold. These 5 lesson enhancers may be just what’s needed to refresh that old classic with a more relevant update.
Hands-on Learning- Add an element that gets kids doing, as opposed to simply viewing, note taking, silently reading, etc. How can students be more actively engaged with the material being studied? When a lesson, topic, or activity is one that has students tinkering, organizing, sorting/categorizing, and/or working with tangible materials, this is likely to offer a more memorable and impactful learning opportunity as students are firing on more cylinders than a rote experience.
Makerspaces- That tinkering of hands-on learning is taken to the next level when it unfolds within a makerspace. By looking at elements of an existing lesson and seeing how the learning or elements of the learning can occur within a makerspace, an added component of engaging interest comes to life. As students plan, calculate, construct, reflect, etc., they can put a variety of skill sets into practice and utilize a wide range of recording and reporting options to make time spent in a makerspace applicable to many curriculums.
PBL- Project-Based Learning allows students to encounter big concepts through a real-world lens. Rather than having students complete a variety of lessons with the only connection being an umbrella topic, PBL lets students dive into a real-world project full of connectivity and unique experiences. As a student-driven form of learning, this method offers an extremely engaging way to encounter a variety of learning experience while building problem-solving and critical-thinking skills along the way.
Art- Art shouldn’t be looked at as an isolated course or activity that only occurs in one particular hallway of a building. Art can be explored in any and every curriculum and bring a new level of interest, engagement, and expression to those tried-and-true activities in need of an update. Whether students are creating the art, studying it, or manipulating it, there are innumerable ways to implement some artistic flair into different subjects. That STEAM element adds an extra layer to STEM learning that is likely to engage a larger number of students. The artistic lens also easily transfers into ELA and History with an ability to offer new ways of viewing the past and new ways to express ideas.
Technology- Adding technology to simply allow students to power up a device is counterintuitive. Finding technology that enhances the learning experience is the key. How can a former lesson be brought to life via AR or VR, and/or how can students use AR or VR to transform the learning process? Where can blended learning be incorporated to offer teachers more one-on-one time with students to ensure that growth and mastery are being experienced by all? Is there an app that can bring a formerly rote practice to digital life? Can an interactive presentation or product provide more takeaways and pathways for learning than a traditional pencil and paper design? These are the tech questions that should be at the forefront and allow teachers to make informed decisions about whether or not a tech route is the way to reboot a tried-and-true relic.
Regardless of how vast or how limited a teacher’s lesson plan repertoire may be, there is always room for growth and improvements. As the world evolves and changes, so should the methods that teachers utilize to prepare students for entering it. There’s no need to scrap former lessons; incorporating a few new strategies and platforms can do wonders for revitalizing some classic activities!
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