Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Authentic Learning Needs No Sparkle

Because we are teaching during a technological age, teachers often think that they need to entertain students to captivate their interests.  They create elaborate fun activities that mimic television game shows and reality events. Maybe it stems from the Pintrest age of crafting and setting up environments that are perfect play places.  Maybe it's from the cute lesson plans you can find on TPT.

I don't know what it is, but authentic learning needs no sparkle, no glitter, no gimmicks.

Natural, authentic curiosity is a magical powerful motivator.  Look at this image to the right.  I found this on a beach and couldn't help but wonder what is this?, why is it shaped this way?... The world around us is fascinating, when we open to it.  And believe it or not, so is our curriculum! Our standards offer great opportunities for inquiry, but you have to look at them with your own curiosity!

Inquiry based learning can complicated, but finds its best practice when the learning is intrinsically motivated. To draw out students interests, there's no need for gimmicks.  Here are three ideas to keep in mind when trying to Keep it Simple!

Three Ways to Keep it Simple


1. Kids are Curious!  All we have to do is be curious ourselves and share something interesting about that topic that we are trying to teach, and see what connections they have to it. Ask them what they think about it, what they wonder, what makes them think what they do... simple!

2. Let them learn through experience and rich resources about some basics on the topic. Get out and see something in your town!  Have an experience together, learn from doing something- make a piece of pottery, build something, go on a nature walk or a neighborhood walk, see a museum exhibit and talk about these experiences. With Open Educational Resources (OER) you can connect your students to the world like never before! Share interesting things with your community of learners like non-fiction videos of people actually doing things, to actual images of the past, to art from around the world.  Virtual field trips can take them to places where they can get some feel for what it's like, even if they've never left town. Simple, but powerful.

3. Maintain an inquiry stance. Keep asking questions.  Wonder together and take note of students wondering.  Write down all the questions along the way to show how much you value their authentic curiosities. Keep it simple.

Keep inquiry based learning simple and ground it in students own curiosities! There's no need for glitter or even bells and whistles, when you have the real thing.

Ain't nothing like the real thing (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, 1967)

Leslie Maniotes, PhD


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