Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Dynamic Learning Environment/Multiple Strategies

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What are various strategies that can be employed for meaningful learning?

When you walk into a classroom you encounter many students. It is essential to keep in mind that each of these students are unique, and have a distinctive learning style. There are three broad categories of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile; all of these learners ascertain optimum knowledge in separate ways. Howard Gardner once said, “Children are best served by having opportunities to gain and demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways.” Incorporating an assortment of teaching and learning strategies can have a noticeable affect on student engagement and achievement. When educators apply the use of varied teaching strategies, they are supporting a belief in individual learning styles and preferences, and they are more apt to engage students in the successful acquisition of knowledge.On the New Horizons for Learning website, Dee Dickinson points out the following, “Students who struggle in schools with curriculum and instruction based primarily on verbal proficiency, arts processes are extremely powerful” (1997). Teachers can use multiple strategies as a means of connecting with each group of students by teaching children through means of art, music, cooking, centers, and games.

Art[edit]

I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.

—William Morris

In Victoria Jacob's writing, Teaching Core Curriculum Content through the Arts, she states, “Arts in elementary schools have often been separated from the core curriculum and instead, offered as enrichment activities that are considered beneficial but not essential” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 2). The officials of the schools she refers to, in addition to other critics, pose the question, “Why should we have art in our schools?” One response to this question is that when the arts are well taught, they are able to engage the minds and hearts of young people by giving them the means to know and enjoy their world. The arts also help them to become literate in an increasingly visual world.

Art encourages self-directed learning, and provides new challenges to students who are already considered successful. It shows improvement in discipline and academic achievement in students who may have had previous issues with traditional learning. The ability to create, interpret, and integrate visual messages is an essential component of literacy. Reports from the National Art Education Association (NAEA) showed that “Students in art study score higher on both their Verbal and Math SAT tests than those who are not enrolled in arts courses” (Guenter 2005). Art education helps children make sense of their world by providing them with motivational tools to reach a new level of understanding of their education, and make connections to the world of ideas. Integrating art into everyday learning gives students who are primarily visual and kinesthetic learners a better chance to learn, as well as giving every student the chance to learn more effectively. In this way, teaching art enables students to achieve their highest level of learning.

Music[edit]

Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.

—Ludwig van Beethoven

Music is another essential component of the curriculum which, by many, is often over-looked and thought of as irrelevant to education. MENC 2002 shows that skills learned through the discipline of music are transferable to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills, which are useful in every part of any curriculum. Catchy tunes and phrases provide children with an easy way to recite and remember facts. For example, a kindergarten teacher at Greenbrier Primary School in Chesapeake, Virginia writes songs about the famous historical figures and the knowledge that kindergarteners are expected to know for the VA SOLs. She testifies that through her twenty-five years of teaching experience, her students are better able to retain the information that they had been taught when they put it in the form of a song. Not only does music make learning more fun, and facts easier to recall, but another significant feature of music is that it strengthens the right side of the brain. This is an important characteristic because studies have shown that the more parts of the brain that are used, the better the user’s synapses develop (Connell 2007).

Several studies provide evidence that children who participate in music programs show improved spatial-temporal skills, enhanced academic performance, and better social skills (Prescott 2005). This is also true of just listening to music. Teachers know from the expressions on their students' faces that music promotes wonder and provides benefits far beyond what can be assessed by research. Students enjoy, gain nourishment, and build confidence through participation in music. A professor in the department of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, Norman Weinberger, Ph.D., says that music “appears to really bring out the best in students, capitalizing on their natural curiosity and allowing it to flourish in a varied, stimulating environment” (Prescott 2005).

Integrating music into the everyday learning environment helps students improve themselves in many ways. The U.S. National Child Welfare Association states, "Through music, a child enters a world of beauty, expresses his/her inmost self, tastes the joy of creating, widens his/her sympathies, develops the mind, soothes and refines the spirit, and adds grace to the body" (Dickinson 1997).

Cooking[edit]

Cookery has become a noble art, a noble science.

—Robert Burton

Although many restrictions have been placed on the allowance of food in the classroom, it is still permissible to cook with fresh, store bought ingredients and obtained office approval. Cooking can be incorporated into various lessons for each of the core subject areas. For example, produce can be sliced in a demonstration about fractions, or can also be used to study social studies and geography by investigating topics such as: where it originated, where it is grown now, who first ate it, and how. More involved cooking demonstrations give students the chance to explore the science of chemical changes as they see how foods differ when heated, frozen, or mixed (Giancoli 2007). The importance of following directions and doing things in a sequential order play a big role in cooking, and the value of organization is also demonstrated. Having students participate in cooking aids in the development of their fine motor coordination, and uses decision-making and problem-solving skills when something unexpected happens. Students also enhance their vocabulary while they are working in the classroom kitchen. They learn new units of measurement, as well as the names of foods, ingredients, and kitchen utensils. Lessons about basic nutrients, heat safety, and proper sanitation can also be linked into the curriculum (Giancoli 2007).

Centers and Games[edit]

Games have a far greater educational influence than most people are aware of.

—Robert Coats

Group interaction has proven to be very useful for students of all ages. One form of group interaction for elementary students is obtained by working in centers. Centers offer motivation and flexibility to meet the diverse needs of today's students (Van Deusen-MacLeod 2000). Centers teach many valuable concepts, some of which are social aspects and others are more traditional educational values. Through centers, students are able to practice cooperation and learn to take turns. They are able to discuss with each other and develop more elaborate language. These opportunities for social collaboration allow student participation on a variety of levels and integrate success into each child’s experience (Van Deusen-MacLeod 2000).

Children also gain the possibility of making choices about their learning. Some of the educational benefits of centers include the development of classification skills and number concepts, as well as problem-solving abilities. Additionally, students learn to make generalizations about the properties of various objects, organize and conceptualize the world, and follow a mental plan. They also further develop gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Another benefit of centers is that they provide a great opportunity for integrating technology into the classroom.

While working in centers, students develop a positive self-concept as well as a positive attitude toward learning. The classroom structure provided allows teachers to assess students regularly while they are engaged in meaningful and purposeful activities. Teacher observation of center behaviors provides significant information regarding each student's level of independence, interdependence, and cooperative skills. (Van Deusen-MacLeod 2000). Educational games also serve as a productive method for teaching students. Games can be used as a means of introducing material and gaining students’ interest, for more in-depth exploration of a subject, or as a review of content. Games sharpen students’ skills and encourage them to learn more, while making learning a fun experience. Popular game shows such as Jeopardy!, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and 1 vs. 100, serve as popular models for review games in the classroom and can be related to all subjects. Studies show that students who are involved in the learning process have more fun and better retain information than ones who are not.

Conclusion[edit]

Exposing students to abstract learning by various forms of interaction will teach them logic and reasoning, and will help them to grasp what might not be represented on the surface. This is why teachers should use multiple strategies in order to produce meaningful learning results through use of art, music, cooking, centers, and games. The arts make a tremendous impact of the developmental growth of every child. Cooking can promote a better understanding of science and inforces the importance of following directions. Centers and games help children's social skills and also provide a fun method for discovery and learning. Each of these interactive, hands-on forms of educating encourages students to further engage themselves in the learning process, and helps them to retain greater knowledge. It is crucial that teachers use an assortment of instructional activities in order to entice all students and excite them about their education.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Mrs. Gavilavitsky’s second grade class is studying Ancient Egypt at the end of the week. Which of the following should Mrs. Gavilavitsky do in order to utilize one of the strategies for meaningful learning as discussed in this article?
A. She should have students individually read the social studies textbook chapter on Ancient Egypt.
B. She should lecture the class on material about Ancient Egypt and then move on to the next lesson.
C. She should teach the students about hieroglyphics, and other characteristics of the writing system of the Ancient Egyptians, and then helping them to create and decorate a door hanger with their names written in hieroglyphs.
D. She should bring in Lucky Charms for the students so that they will enjoy the class.

C. She should teach the students about hieroglyphics, and other characteristics of the writing system of the ancient Egyptians, and then helping them to create and decorate a door hanger with their names written in hieroglyphs.

Pepe, as well as some of the other students in his fourth grade math class, has been struggling with learning fractions. Which of the follow demonstrations could Pepe’s teacher perform that might help her students to visualize fractions?
A. His teacher could bring in fruits and divide them into halves, fourths, eighths, etc. and have students do math problems with the pieces. At the end of the lesson they could all enjoy a healthy snack.
B. His teacher should tell the students that fractions are simple, and if they are having trouble that just means that they are not trying hard enough.
C. His teacher could present research about the proportion of students who struggle with fractions.
D. His teacher could give the students additional fraction worksheets for extra practice.

A. His teacher could bring in fruits and divide them into halves, fourths, eighths, etc. and have students do math problems with the pieces. At the end of the lesson they could all enjoy a healthy snack.

Jason is a new student in Mr. O’Houlihan’s class. He is nervous about his first day of classes because he is very shy. Luckily for him, Mr. O’Houlihan frequently has students work in centers. How might this method of teaching be helpful to a student like Jason?
A. This method promotes group interaction.
B. Students have the opportunity to discuss with each other.
C. Students work together to achieve a common goal.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

Mr. LaFleur is preparing a review game for his eighth grade students. Which of the following would be a good model to use?
A. Jeopardy!
B. Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
C. 1 vs. 100
D. Any of the above would be a good model.

D. Any of the above would be a good model.

Ms. Veatch’s first grade students are having trouble remembering all of the historical figures that they have learned this year. How might Ms. Veatch provide an easy way for them to recall facts?
A. She could choose a familiar tune, such as “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star” and change the lyrics to address an individual historical figure. Then proceed to choose other tunes for additional figures.
B. She could have students write a two page report on each individual explaining his or her importance in history.
C. She could instruct her students to read stories based on the lives of historical people.
D. She could tell students to watch movies such as Walt Disney’s Pocahontas in order to learn more.

A. She could choose a familiar tune, such as “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star” and change the lyrics to address an individual historical figure. Then proceed to choose other tunes for additional figures.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

Imagine that you are a second grade school teacher. Johnny Appleseed Day is coming up. Give an example of a lesson you could prepare which incorporates at least one of the multiple strategies for meaningful learning into your curriculum, and explain the importance of doing so.

There are many exciting ways for a second grade teacher to incorporate multiple learning strategies into the lesson in order to make it meaningful to the students. The first step that I’m going to take in my classroom will be to introduce the children to John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed” and share how he came to earn his nickname. Throughout the day, we will be making applesauce as a way of getting students involved and helping them to feel more connected to the lesson. As we are preparing the ingredients, I’ll familiarize students with the units of measurement that we use for cooking. I plan to do a short fractions lesson with the students while I’m carefully cutting the apples. Then children will be able to periodically watch as the applesauce cooks and they will write in a science journal about the changes that they observe. The applesauce takes a couple of hours to cook, so in the mean time, students will work in groups of three to create a short story about life with Johnny Appleseed. They will brainstorm about their story and then they will each write one page, trade their papers so that they are editing a new one, and then exchange papers again so that they can draw a picture; at this point everyone in the group should have a part in each of the three pages of the short story. Once the class completes the assignment, each group will present to the class. This group activity promotes collaboration, cooperation, and communication, so the students will be able to further develop their social skills. Toward the end of the day when the applesauce is ready, they will be able to enjoy their treat while participating in a class discussion to review what they’ve learned.

References[edit]