There is nothing a student dreads more than a class that has become a monotonous succession of facts and figures they have to memorize and regurgitate for credit. Studies show that the retention rates plummet when a student is “learning” in this way and they are also likely to develop negative emotions toward the subject being taught. Finding creative ways for students to engage in the content is crucial to their learning and understanding the material and for retaining the information beyond the scope of the classroom. Here are some ideas to get you started!
Try “Cubing”: Cubing is, at its core, the practice of looking at a subject from multiple angles. First, you write a question or task on each side of a six-sided block (or you can simply have them apply the concept to the subject being examined). For example: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Or: Describe It, Compare It, Associate It, Analyze It, Apply It, Argue For/Against It. Then students use the cubes in discussion, as writing prompts, or for brainstorming. This is a great way to get them collaborating and thinking outside the box!
Use Journals (Well): Journaling gives the students a chance to reflect and make connections, but when used without direction and just for journaling’s sake, it can seem like a forced chore. Instead, give direction; have the students connect the subject to their own lives or write their journal as a character, historical figure, scientific thinker, mathematician…etc… Have them respond to a meaningful quote or even debrief the collaborative cube exercise. By giving them a prompt, you will help guide them into a more creative space and will enhance their understanding and connection with the content.
Connect With the Outside World: We live in an age where we can connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, at virtually any time. A creative way to utilize this in your classroom is to make connections with people that can virtually “visit” and enhance your content. This can be connecting with a classroom in a different culture (perhaps the culture of the characters in a novel your class is reading) or connecting with an expert in the specific subject you are covering (i.e. a Shakespearean actor when you are on a Shakespeare or Elizabethan England unit). You can also use technology to “visit” different places. With programs like Google Earth, you and your students can, in real time, explore different countries, regions, and nations. This is not only a neat little tool, but a great way to engage your students in the classroom.
Embrace Project-Based Learning: Project based learning puts an emphasis on assessment through collaborative and creative projects. A beginning goal may be to replace even just one of your assessments with a project that incorporates cross-curricular concepts and creativity. Find a like-minded colleague and collaborate over different project-based learning ideas. This forces you to be creative and discover new ways to bring creative connections to your classroom.
Stay tuned for more on project-based learning and be sure to check out Social Studies MegaStore for lesson guides and tips and tricks for the teaching profession!