The proverb, "Tell me and I'll forget/ Show me and I'll remember/ Involve me and I'll understand" seems quite fitting to the teaching profession. We inherently know as educators that our students will acquire the ability to analyze and synthesize information only through direct engagement with the material. Copying down notes from a power point may insure that our kids have the information in their physical possession, but what turns mere facts into knowledge and understanding? What makes it theirs?
Consumer research has shown that if a shopper touches the merchandise, he or she is halfway to purchasing it. Apparently there is something about laying our hands on an object. Once we see and feel it in our grasp, we begin to imagine that object in our permanent possession. For our students, ideas can work in a similar fashion. When our kids interact with ideas and manipulate concepts, they do more than obtain the facts, they construct meaning. And there's a natural tendancy to take ownership in the things we build ourselves.
One of the best things Facing History has done for my teaching is to provide me with a wealth of resources to facilitate classroom engagement. Oh sure, the structured debate, the roundtable or salon discussion, and the unit-specific simulation all have their place in my curriculum, but it's the "insert any topic, document, or text here" strategies of Facing History that I return to again and again. The applicability of exercises like Big Paper, Text to Self, Text to Text, and Text to World, or 3-2-1 spans across multiple topics and disciplines. Students can interact with the material and with each other in various ways, and in those interactions deepen their understanding of a particular concept or issue.
The great thing about these exercises is that we're all learners in the process. Kids always show me a new way of looking at things and they make connections I never before considered. Although not on any state-mandated curriculum, but equally important, they learn about themselves and about each other. And with this new knowledge of self, we build trust and construct community, together we create a safe space for learning to occur.
What activities do you use to involve and engage your students? What activities have also served to build community and establish your classroom as a safe space for learning? What activities are you looking forward to trying?
To read Stephanie's blog posts from previous seminars this summer, click below:
- Holocaust and Human Behavior seminar: The Power of a Single Story
- Identity, History, and Adolescent Choices in Literature: Looking Inward, Moving Outward