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Final Field Report: April into May

By mid-April, everyone in the classroom had hit their stride with being used to using

hands-on learning methods. The day a new Science chapter was introduced, a new

set of manipulative study materials appeared on the counter. Students understood

how to independently use the study materials, and most went through them daily. It

was interesting to note that rather than be bored by the same materials, all students

seemed to relish their growing competence and the ease with which they could move

through terms and diagrams that had been difficult just the week before. This brings

home the point that students need short, frequent rehearsals of the material that is to

be recalled.

Studying the muscular-skeletal system was fun and interesting for the students. The

model skeleton from the high school science lab took up residence in our classroom

for a week or so, allowing students prolonged exposure to the learning aid.

One of the muscular-skeletal chapter Four Card Pile Method cards had most students

stumped. It is pictured below. The card is related to muscles that work in tandem. It

was difficult for students to see this, and the terms “contract” and “relax” used in this

context had them puzzled. A model “elbow” was constructed from paper towel tubes,

long balloons, and a pipe cleaner. The long balloons represented a pair of muscles,

and as each student straightened and bent their model elbow, understanding of what

was happening with the muscle pair dawned.

There is one note to self about keeping study aids on the counter to be accessed as

students completed the day’s required work. Each and every student needs to have

time in their day to go through the study aids. Scheduling them to be used when all

other work was complete meant that the one or two students who most needed those

aids rarely got to use them. It would have been better for the study aids to be used

after completion of an activity that happened early enough in the day for everyone to

be ensured of having a turn with them.

Alternative seating was explored by the class during the final six weeks of the school

year. Read this newsletter’s article on alternative seating to get the full story on

standing desks and wobble seats!

A frequently voiced concern about using hands-on learning methods with all students

in a classroom relates to the traditional learners being bored with repetition and

manipulatives that struggling learners need. It was good to see that this was not the

case at all. Learners of all types benefitted from the syllable division, mnemonic

sentences, study aids, and even paper towel tube elbows. The result was a rich

learning environment where each child benefitted from the extras that were vital to the

success of struggling learners. It was good to see this theory play out as reality through

this semester as a classroom teacher!

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