Critical and higher-level thinking. Student engagement. Brain-based teaching. These buzzwords are at the top of educators’ minds these days. But how are these goals actually achieved in practice? And what kinds of student activities offer the most bang for the buck in terms of enhancing learning?
A few key principles apply:
Encourage active participation (as opposed to simply passive observation). This requires that every student participates, not just the ones who readily volunteer. It also requires that students interact with each other, instead of simply speaking in succession.
Facilitate deep processing (as opposed to more shallow forms of learning, which involve regurgitating information exactly as it was presented). This requires that students not only hear or see, but also mentally manipulate the information—considering its implications and significance, comparing it to what they already know, synthesizing and digesting it, and sharing it with others.
Let students use multiple modalities (and if possible, their choice of modalities) to experience the content and express their learning.
A prerequisite for active participation, deep processing and multimodal expression of learning is breaking direct instruction time into smaller increments, between which kids have opportunities to get “hands-on” with the material. (Dr. Fred Jones calls this model “Say, See, Do” teaching. A flipped classroom model also opens up class time for hands-on learning.)
With that in mind, below are 24 ideas for in-class, deep-learning activities that involve the verbal and written modalities, among others. Educators might also use some of these activities as student assessments.