Monday, March 25, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Drawing for Learning

Pictionary is fun! Many of us have played it and had a blast! But if you start thinking about it from a teacher's perspective, the words you had the most difficulty drawing and conveying were probably the ones you didn't know very well yourself. The ones you could draw easily are the concepts and words you knew very well.

Check out this video to get your brain moving:

Granted, Sheldon is just conveying a set of words, but the game can also have the teams draw concepts. Drawing is a powerful tool to help make the abstract tangible, make connections with previous learning and other disciplines, and personalize notes and ideas. 

How much do you use this in your classes? 

Drawing and Artwork is Strategy 2 in Marcia Tate's Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain. In this section, she makes some very important points about how drawing aids in student learning:
  • Adding drawings to notes helps in future recall and demonstrates a higher level of understanding (Bloom's Taxonomy)
  • Drawing and artwork help to better understand abstract concepts.
  • In math, drawing can help students visualize the problem before solving it.
  • Success in STEM is due to keen observation, spatial reasoning, and kinesthetic understanding. These are all skills utilized in Art.
  • When involved in art activities, different parts of the brain are activated thus increasing connections and engagement.
  • Understanding artistic patterns can help the brain find patterns more easily in other learning.
  • This personalizes the notes and ideas being given by the teacher.
Try it! The easiest way to incorporate drawing and artwork is to have kids add it to their notes. When you give them a definition or concept, have them draw a picture of it. If it is difficult, they may need more instruction as they have not reached full understanding yet.

Here are some other ideas Marcia Tate provides:
  • Have the kids design a "Pictionary" game with the key vocabulary for the unit.
  • Let the students draw on the marker board (or a big piece of paper) a key concept from the unit thus creating a class mural. Be sure to have them explain and defend their drawing.
  • Have kids diagram the steps of a lab much like the instructions we all get for putting together home appliances.
  • Have students design a book cover for the main idea/concept of the chapter or unit.
It does not have to be aesthetically pleasing, a Van Gogh, or anything worthy of displaying. Also, it doesn't have to be what you would draw. It is personal to the student and its sole purpose should be to help he/she learn.

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Creating a Brain-Friendly Classroom

Hi all!

There is an awesome series of books out there and you must get them! They are written by Marcia Tate and they are the Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites series. Each book discusses "20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain." Here is a video of Marcia explaining the series:

As with my walk through of the Jane E. Pollack's Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning, I will be commenting on a tip per post.

Today's Strategy: Brainstorming and Discussion

Think about how we learn. We learn from our families, friends, churches, and a variety of other outlets. Learning is a social activity. Very rarely are we left out on our own without any support or learning partner.

Now think about our classrooms. How often do we leave kids out on their own? Don't talk, don't share, don't use your really is unnatural learning. Granted, we are trying to create self-supporting learners, but we don't have to throw them into the deep end of the pool without their water-wings! Even when learning to ride a bike, we first start with training wheels, and then when we take them off, mom or dad holds onto the seat until we gain our balance. And if we start to lose it, they grab the seat again. They don't just push us down a hill and wave.

So we need to provide more natural learning in our classrooms and one method is that of discussion. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Not talking is unnatural. Communication is necessary in learning.
  • Speaking actually sends oxygen to the brain. This will "wake-up" the student and increase engagement.
  • Many of us find it necessary to "talk through" our problems in an effort to better understand the problem and find a solution. This is why brainstorming is such a good technique in the classroom.
  • Discussion and using Graphic Organizers ensure that ALL students are involved and engaged.
  • Kids 10 and younger benefit most from a teacher-led discussion. Students over the age of 10 benefit most from their own discussions in collaborative  groups. The secondary teacher needs to move from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side."
  • When brainstorming, enforce the DOVE guidelines: Don't judge, One idea at a time, Variety of ideas, Energy on task.
  • Have students in collaborative groups as a rule. During your instruction, give them processing time periodically. Use the 10:2 rule: after 10 minutes of instruction, provide 2 minutes of processing.
  • Use Think-Pair-Share! Make it commonplace. This is a simple and POWERFUL tool to increase engagement.
  • Provide "wait time" before eliciting an answer. Give everyone a chance to wrap their brains around what you have asked of them.

When a brain is deprived of oxygen for more than six minutes, it is considered dead. If you want to increase engagement, get them talking!

Have a happy day!