I’ve seen it in my own life. I bought an old zero-turn radius lawn mower and learned how to drive it on the fly. I’ve tinkered with broken items around the house until I fixed them.
I’ve seen it in the classroom. Students finally getting verb conjugation in Spanish after rearranging cards with word parts on them.
It’s true: hands-on learning works.
So many of us are tactile learners. We don’t want to be told how it’s done. We want to do it. It’s like that for adults and for kids.
But in so many classes, teachers feel that a lecture, a set of instructions or a thorough explanation is in order first. In many cases, that spoils the fun. It’s kind of like telling what’s going to happen in a movie and then watching it!
This was the topic of a recent #DitchBook Twitter chat (Thursdays, 30 minutes, 10 p.m. Eastern / 9 p.m. Central / 8 p.m. Mountain / 7 p.m. Pacific).
- D (Different)
- I (Innovative)
- T (Tech-laden)
- C (Creative)
- H (Hands-on)
Here are 10 hands-on ideas from the classroom and what we learned about hands-on learning from them:
1. Get your hands dirty — literally!
2. Make real-life connections.
The answer to “How will I use this in real life?” always makes content more relevant. I love Sheldon Soper's idea to have kids grocery shop with their parents because it helps kids and parents work together in learning in the context of something everyone does — grocery shopping!
3. Give students opportunities to become designers.
The maker movement and design thinking are hot topics in education right now. And for good reason! Designing, creating, changing, iterating, improving — they’re all good for the brain. Check out these ideas from Sarah Warren, Craig Klement and John Hartmann.
Also, visit this post — Design thinking: 10 key ideas for even more ideas.
4. Bring math to life.
Real-life math isn’t as clean and simple as worksheets often suggest it is. Data is messy and often doesn’t make sense. Bringing physics, geometry and other math concepts to life helps kids deal with that reality. See how in this watermelon catapult lesson shared by Craig Klement and this cupcake fractions lesson from James Varlack.
5. Let students lead.
You really have to know your stuff to teach. (We know that as well as anyone as educators!) That goes for students, too. Adam’s Juarez shared a great example and uses the model where he “trains students to train classmates.”
Zac Eash breaks students up into groups to learn a game. The groups then observe each other playing the game and try to guess the rules.
6. Try a problem with no clear solution.
We don’t have to have all the answers as teachers. We don’t even have to know the answer to what we’re working on! Tisha Richmond shared a lesson that includes cooking without a recipe — a recipe for failure but certain learning.
Francois Provencher shared how in a University Applied Social Science class students were not given directions but had to come up with something then reflect on the group process.
7. Invent ways to bring textbook concepts to life.
New ideas make some sense in the book. Pretty flow charts can help. But when you see it in real life, it clicks.
Some ideas from the #Ditchbook community:
- Howard Kiyuna taught energy by building paper rockets and launched them with a steel bike pump.
- Karly Moura uses Scratch and Makey Makey to bring maps of the California regions to life.
- Cody McNeely takes a paper based activity from the textbook and turns it into a scavenger hunt.
- Cameron Ross' students use Micro:bit to create music.
8. Explore and discover.
Discovery is powerful. Students find things on their own and make sense of them. That’s what I love about the activity that Jill Weber shared — students start with a sandbox and end with new learning. (Jill has a great, very thorough blog post about it too.)
Howard Kiyuna shared how he set up a fish tank so that students could study the nitrogen cycle as they observed.
9. Use video.
It’s easier than ever to make video — and to make it compelling. Sounds like a great opportunity for hands-on learning.
Use the idea Megan Hacholski shared and create stop motion, or check out these blog posts about using video in the classroom:
10. Fail until you get it.
It’s OK to fail — even though our schools seem to be built around the idea that we should avoid it. We can help students to fail forward and learn when things don’t go as planned. The leaks in the lesson that Lanny Saretsky shared show that!
Want to bring failure to your class tomorrow? Have them build Rube Goldberg machines like Rayna Freedman suggests.
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