This week’s discussions focused on authentic learning – what it is and how we as teachers can deliver instruction that incorporates the elements of authentic learning. Parkay (2010, p.311) states that authentic learning engages the student emotionally and mentally, offers choices and opportunities to make decisions, and allows the student to believe that the outcome is important and he/she has something to offer.
There are numerous techniques a teacher can employ to engage students emotionally. One of my favorites is the use of humor. This looks a bit different across the grade levels – in kindergarten simply donning a Dr. Suess hat as we explore word families goes a long way to engage students during this phonemic awareness task. Janet Elder, Ph.D (2012) suggests using music during transitions. For example, when moving into collaborative groups, the teacher could play silly song clips such as “Help” by the Beatles or “We Can Work it Out”, also by the Beatles. Elder offers numerous strategies teachers can use to incorporate humor in their classrooms. Here is a link to her paper “Brain Friendly Humor in the Classroom”.
Convincing students that they have something to offer in a lesson is another powerful element that fosters authentic learning. I see the positive effects of this strategy each time I implement our Celebrations Around the World unit. Students and their families have the opportunity to present a special seasonal tradition or celebration to the class. Students are highly engaged as they show elaborate traditional costumes, share special food associated with the celebration or culture, show photos of their families as they participate in various activities, and lead the class in an art activity. Another example of students contributing to their classmates learning is our “sound box” activity. Students bring in a collection of small objects from home and lead the class in a guessing game as to what sounds they have in common, are there any that rhyme, are there two that have the same middle sound, etc.
Dewey (2010) states that authentic learning is enhanced when new learning is connected with students’ current knowledge and past experience. While this consideration of a student’s existing schema is not a new idea, Dewey goes on to say that this is just the first step to a progressive and systematic process of introducing new knowledge. Teachers need to put just as much thought and attention towards the more difficult task of expanding this new knowledge out into even newer learning while simultaneously maintaining a connection with past learning.
Dewey, J. (2010). Progressive organization of subject matter. In F. Parkay, et al., Curriculum leadership: Readings for developing quality educational programs (pp. 327-329).Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Elder, J. (2012). Brain friendly humor in the classroom. Retrieved from website: http://www.readingprof.com/papers/Brain-Friendly%20Strategies/7_Brain-Friendly%20Humor%20in%20the%20Classroom%20(map).pdf
Parkay, F., et al. (2010). Curriculum leadership: Readings for developing quality educational programs. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.