Thursday, March 1, 2012

The advantage of hands-on learning

As an education student (many years ago...haha) I was introduced to "hands-on" learning or learning through experience. As I searched for my first teaching job, a few years later, I looked for a school where I could teach, at least in part, by experience.  So, the Language textbook, for example, was only my guide to what we should be studying.  I created games and experiences to foster learning in a way that would engage several senses and learning styles. 

In January, I taught in our local homeschool PE co-op.  We were learning t-ball.  So, for the first two weeks we worked on drills and explained the was getting out into the field and playing the game that brought about a deeper understanding.  It is the same with education.  We definitely need the instruction but it isn't until we experience things that we truly understand them.

I recently increased the amount of experiential learning that we are doing here in our home.  Here are two methods I use for learning basic language concepts that are easy and reusable...very important to me.  (I have used these same games for math concepts and science classification too.) 

1. Board or wall work.  Choose a theme...(ducks and ponds, frogs and lily-pads, bones and dog bowls, flower petals and stems, etc) creative and choose something that peeks your children's interest. Make large ponds and many small ducks (or whatever theme you are using) out of construction paper (die cuts or clip art printed from the computer work well).  Label each pond with categories like nouns, verbs, etc. and then each duck with a word.

Here is a picture of my "word ducks".

Place the ponds on a chalkboard, bulletin board, or poster board on the wall.  The kids look at their duck, get up and walk to the board or wall, tape their ducks to the correct pond, and explain why the duck went in that pond.  This can be used for SO many different language concepts...and other subjects too.  I did a version of this for learning equivalent fractions and one for science classification.  It engages the senses of seeing, feeling, and hearing and benefits the visual, verbal, physical, logical, and social learners.  If you are unfamiliar with different learning styles here is a great link.

2.  File Folder work.  Use the same idea as above but on a smaller scale.  Paste the ponds into a brightly colored file folder, label, laminate, and use for independent learning/reinforcing games.  You will need to place the answers on the back of the file folder before laminating if you want it to be truly independent.  This is great for quiet time, travel in the car, or waiting at a doctor's office.  

I find it quite amusing that the education that was meant to prepare me for classroom teaching only reinforced my desire...and determination to teach my kids from home where they could learn through life experience.

Now that I am homeschooling three kids with three preschoolers in tow, it is truly difficult to do the hands-on learning...and yet it is SO very important to their understanding, long term retention, and love of learning.

In the busyness of homeschool life with six children, I realized that I was leaving behind the some of the heart and soul of my homeschooling passion...experiential learning...and just playing together.  However, with babies needing regular naps and routines, we cannot be out every day.

So, on "Fantastic Fridays" we do projects, experiments, field trips, Literature club, park days, science journaling, nature walks, etc.  Often times there are projects during the week also but I have my sights set on Fridays.  Click to see some of the things that we have done on "Fantastic Friday".

In a large homeschooling family things really do happen in stages and seasons...only time will tell how long I will keep this particular method up but the kids are really learning and loving it.

So, if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of doing many things "hands on", just try doing one thing every week.  Who knows, you may find that it isn't as scary as you thought.

What things do you use to help your kids experience learning?

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