What is the difference between teaching and covering materials? A lot of times it boils down to leaving room for the inevitable questions and tangents that will arise, after the material is presented.
Covering presents concepts, facts, and information; the main objective is retention for purposes of recall and testing. Teaching allows for processing the material, asking questions, and connecting it to known concepts; the objective is creative thinking where the information is used in new and different ways.
Both are key to student engagement and learning.
Excerpting from “The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools” by Mariale Hardiman, and quoting Ulrich Kraft, a physician and science writer, “Fresh solutions result from disassembling and reassembling the building blocks in an infinite number of ways. That means the problem solver must have thoroughly understand the blocks.”
Simply put, you’ve to have some knowledge before you can think creatively about something!
Here are 5 tips to move beyond covering material in your classroom, without killing your instruction time:
1. Give students a heads up
Let them know what the next unit study is going to be, and ask them to come in to class with 1 or 2 things they know about the subject, and 1 or 2 things they want to know about the subject. Do the same thing for yourself.
What are the big takeaways your students need? How does it fit in with previously units? Include review opportunities to illustrate the connected nature of knowledge and refresh concepts. Does it tie in to other classes? How does it relate to things, outside the classroom environment?
3. Have a running vocabulary sheet for the unit.
As you design your lesson plan, share words or concepts that were unfamiliar to you. It’s a great way to connect with your students and illustrate that everyone is learning, all the time, even teachers. Encourage students to go up and add to the sheet during class time; model this behavior as well.
4. Play detective.
Encourage students to write down their “I wonder” questions. It’s a great way for you to see how they are relating to the information, and explore potential extensions. Remember to model; not everyone feels comfortable sharing their inner musings.
5. Make it fun.
While you’re not there to entertain your students, fun engages learners and makes things memorable. The more pleasure or joy we feel doing something, the more we want to do it. Let’s find fun and interesting ways to present information. Find tie-ins where possible. Relate it to the known.
And remember, if they’re not getting it…it’s most likely the way in which the information is being communicated.