Read this for a 3 minute overview on how to enhance your teaching practice to engage your students and help them connect the knowledge: https://www.teachthought.com/learning/6-targets-teach-way-brain-learns/
If you believe the learning styles theory, you’re showing up to class with 3 different versions of your lesson plan - one for the kinesthetic learner, another for the visual, a third for the auditory, right?
No, you’re not doing that?
But…but what the different learning styles of your students??
Clearly, no one is showing up to class with three lesson plans. (Unless you are, in which case, please comment below…I’d love to talk about what you’ve found).
In 2008 four psychologists collaborated and cohesively studied the existing literature on learning styles; they concluded that there was no strong evidence to support the learning styles theory but they didn’t completely rule it out. You can read the paper by Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, here: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf
Yet we continue to talk about learning styles in education.
Veteran Baltimore City Public Schools educator, Dr. Mariale Hardiman, now Professor of Education at Johns Hopkins University, recommends teachers think big picture learning goals and let those learning goals drive the activities and assessments, “When teachers focus solely on the individual points students often miss the larger concepts or the “big picture” essential for deep understanding and memory.”
I look at it as giving the main idea rather than just the bulleted points, as in, “Here’s what you’re going to learning in this section/unit building on previous knowledge of x,y, and z.” I also like to outline the takeaways, as in, here’s what you’re really learning to do. If you’re more of a sports analogy person, think big play, instead of move by move.
But, what about my kinesthetic and auditory and visual learners, teachers will say at this point.
Vicky Krug, a college professor at Westmoreland County Community College, featured in Grey Matters, says, “I take a multi sensorial approach to what I teach and I design the learning experience using multiple senses. I know that getting students up and about in class helps their engagement and focus so I incorporate that. Some material naturally lends itself to movement and with other stuff, I find a way to work it in. I add visuals, I have students repeat things out loud”
Want to try a multi sensorial approach in your classroom? Try backwards planning. What are the key things your students need to master at the end of the unit? Then, think about the best ways to make that happen from both an activities and assessment perspective.
Invest in planning
When Jeremy Mettler planned a unit on the importance of the Suez Canal he started with an in class unit to give him an idea of the collective knowledge base of his students, incorporated flash cards with vocabulary cartoons to help students quickly grasp the basics, and then designed an experience that brought home the differences of travel pre-canal and post-canal. “The biggest thing fear for teachers is the lack of content time but when I invest in planning and using some kind of visual organizer to highlight the key concepts of the unit, it strengthens my teaching practice in class. I teach, instead of just covering content”.
Mix it up
Krug teaches college level developmental reading and writing; she often chooses different instruction materials to help her students grasp concepts simply because they’re more interesting. It’s not uncommon to hear Dr. Seuss or debates on the 14th Amendment in her classes. “I’m a big believer in fun and I give students multiple ways to experience the material so that they have multiple ways to retrieve the material”.
Incorporate Real Life
Justin Holbrook, a 4th grade STEM teacher at Roland Park Elementary, tries to show the real life applications of things, “When students see what I’m teaching them is applicable in the real world, they pay more attention. Place value translated nicely into pay cheques; calculating area was a great way to weigh in on some of the proposed changes to various spaces to our school”.
You can see Mettler, Krug, and Holbrook in the education documentary Grey Matters: Teaching The Way The Brain Learns.
Interested in purchasing for Professional Development? Click here and join teachers and school districts across the US who are using Grey Matters to engage their students and strengthen their teaching practice.
One of the keys to helping information resonate or stick with students is to show how it applies in both theoretical and real life situations, as well as showing how it applies across disparate subject areas.
Give someone more ways to think about something, chances are, they’ll remember it.
And giving them ways to connect information, helps them see the world they live in for all of it’s nuances and “grey” areas.
Soft skills of inference and prediction are bolstered with the ability to make connections. If this, then maybe that, and that, because of x, y, and a, and b.
But how do you connect the knowledge taught in an Ancient History class with Social/Civic studies? Or Science with ELA Writing? Or ELA Reading ?
Curriculums are usually organized in silos, by subject, and offer only learning objectives for that specific subject area. Consider organizing teaching teams, by grade, and give teachers collaborative planning time.
If teachers, across a grade level, have a rudimentary understanding of what their students will be learning in other subjects, they can collaborate to find the tie-ins. This gives students multiple ways to understand concepts, appreciate relationships between subject areas, and helps teachers strengthen their teaching practice.
Studying New World Explorers? Take a moment to throw some place value math concepts in by having students figure out how long ago those events took place. And while you might already do this in class, identity it as place value to reinforce the concept. Looking at Ancient History, perhaps the early River Civilizations? Tie in Geography by identifying map features or trade routes, using geography vocabulary.
Try these tips to create an effective teaching team in your school:
1. Identify a vision or a goal for your team. If you don’t set the goal, how will you know when you’ve met it? For example, by the end of this school year, students will be able to link knowledge across different subject areas.
2. Create a graphic organizer for your class showing the concepts you’re going to cover for your class and share this with your team.
3. Create a vocabulary list on either a biweekly or monthly basis and give one or two examples of relevance to other classes. Do the same thing for key concepts - think outside your subject and your students will too.
4. Communicate with your students about the team. It will help to prime them for thinking across the subjects. Students are just as attached to keeping math in Math class or english in English class.
5. Check in with your team. Tangents from the curriculum happen. A student’s pace will often differ from the suggested instruction pace of the curriculum. Let your team know where you are in the learning process.
For more on cross-curricular teaching check out:
Here are what some schools have tried:
And here’s a teacher’s perspective: