Getting to Know You…

Teachers compare the special strengths of two students.

Teachers compare the special strengths of two students.

(This entry is especially for teachers.)

With school beginning all too quickly, many teachers may be reflecting on last year and considering how to make this year even better. Along with reviewing the school calendar and given curriculum, I hope you will consider how you can make this year even more learner-centered. I have two tried-and-true suggestions that can be modified to fit every age level and every subject area.

First of all, at the beginning of school, make up an inventory for students to fill out or ask them orally to tell you about things that interest them and things they like to play/do. During the year, try to incorporate these interests into lessons so they will be more personally meaningful to the students. (Brain research tells us that individuals are more likely to retain new information when it has personal meaning.) For more ideas, look at the checklist in Thomas Armstrong’s book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, chapter 3. If you want to be really creative, try one of these:

  • Develop a “Me Book,” in which students can write, draw and collage important things about themselves: likes and dislikes, favorite ways to play, important people, and so on.
  • Draw “Me Papers.” These are life-sized self-portraits wherein the student poses on a blank sheet of paper and the teacher or someone else draws their outline (in pencil). Each person fills in their own portrait by drawing, painting, writing and/or collage.
  • Photos. Have each student collage photos (or magazine pictures) or make a slide show to illustrate their favorite things to do.

Secondly, begin every lesson by helping students make a connection between the lesson’s objective and their own thoughts, feelings, opinions, imaginations and experiences. This can be as simple as discussing their reactions to the concept or main idea. Examples: For friendship: “How would you describe a friend?” For animals, “What do you already know about cats?” For Westward Expansion, “What would you take with you if you had to cross the wilderness in a covered wagon?” Other strategies include the following:

  • Conceptual maps (and other graphic organizers). Put an important idea in a circle and draw lines, like spider legs, from the circle. At the end of each “leg,” add thoughts from the students.
  • K-W-L. Draw a chart like the one below. At the beginning of the lesson, have students fill in the K and  W columns.  At the end of the lesson, fill in the L.

CATS

K

W

L

What I KNOW: What I WANT to know: What I LEARNED:
 

 

 

 

 

 

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