Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Year Begins!

Each August when the crape myrtles begin to change, I know it is time for school to start once again. This year was another milestone in our household-our youngest started kindergarten. His excitement mirrored that of my daughter when she started. And just like her, the questions inquiring about objects, organisms, and how things work have increased over the last five years. Children are naturally curious about the world. Their curiosity can become a natural springboard to get them excited about learning. Unfortunately, all too often, children lose their curiosity as they get older.

So how can we keep children curious? It starts with getting children hooked into learning and sometimes this takes a little magic! Now I am not saying we all have to be trained magicians in the classroom. Instead we need to act like magicians. Magicians don’t begin their act by saying-now for my first trick I would like to show you a trick that is based on Newton’s First Law of Motion which is Physical Science Standard of Learning 8.9. Forget that! If they began their who like that we would all be asleep or asking for our money back! I learned early on in my teaching career that if I started my lesson with an activity instead of jumping into a lecture, my students remembered more and learned more. Although I knew this, my children reminded me of this just recently.

This past summer I spent three days attending a workshop in order to learn some new ideas to use to teach science. My flight back to Virginia Beach arrived late-can you say at 1 a.m.! But my children didn’t care what time I arrived home. They were just happy to have me home. After only five hours of sleep, my children bounded in the room to get me up so we could play. As I wondered downstairs with sleep still on my mind, I began to wonder what I could do to entertain them without turning on the T.V. Thankfully I had remembered to pack one of the activities in the only bag I had remembered to bring inside when I arrived home. So-with sleep still in my eyes, I pulled out this jar of beads and simply said “do you think I can make these beads jump out of this container?” Of course my children said no and from that moment-they were hooked. See when I pulled the end of this ordinary strand of beads that you might find on your tree at Christmas or in New Orleans at Mardi Gras, and ‘magically’ they seemed to leap from the container, all my kids could say (in their loudest voice)-do it again Mom! This one little jar filled with ordinary beads became my life savor and a learning opportunity for my children. After I had managed to have two cups of coffee, my children had slowed down enough to ask me the question any teacher longs for-“how does this work mom?” And while I make no conscious effort to launch into lectures about science topics each time my children ask me a question, I do try to simply answer their questions. Even today, three months after they first played with the beads, they still remember the basic idea of the second half of Newton’s First Law of Motion-an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an outside force. Or as my son says-the beads go crazy falling out of the jar until the floor stops them.

Long story short: instead of launching into content or reading the text book, why not try getting the children doing something. Allow them to ask the questions and you will find their questions will lead you into the content you need to teach!

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