Many years ago, I taught a class on charity at a Jewish summer camp. The kids who came to this camp were typical American preadolescents and teenagers. They came to camp for their friends not for the classes. According to the preeminent Spanish Jewish philosopher Rabbi Moses Maimonides, there is a hierarchy of the best ways to give charity. The lowest is to give grudgingly. The highest is to give somebody a job so that he can take care of himself. I decided that the best way to teach Maimonides’ ladder of Tzedakah (charity) was to have the students create games. One group created a game using principles from Dungeons & Dragons. I will never forget walking into their cabin one afternoon and seeing them playing the game. These were kids who often wanted to ditch class and play cards. Now, they were playing a game that they had created on a very important topic.
In December, 1998 and January, 1999 the ASCD, a leading association focused on curriculum development, published a journal on spirituality in schools. It contained an article by Charles Suhor entitled, “Spirituality–Letting It Grow in the Classroom,” and another by John Montgomery Halford entitled, “Longing for the Sacred in Schools: A Conversation with Nel Noddings.” In short, each student has an inner voice that must be empowered and to which the student must learn to listen. Educators frequently talk about helping students learn beyond the classroom walls. However, perhaps we should also talk about helping students learn deep within themselves. Maybe we should help students learn to understand themselves and others at the deepest levels.
While technology helps students visit far-away places from the comfort of their own classrooms, it might impede an inner look at themselves, developing relationships with other people around them, and interacting in meaningful ways with their natural world.
Teachers have high hopes for creating open dialogues in their classrooms. They strive to build lessons that incorporate the rich skills of debate and conversations. How can teachers help to improve the communication skills of their students? Here are four strategies for helping to improve communication skills in learning situations and suggestions as to how to teach these strategies to learners.
Imagine somebody telling you, “You must learn this precise information and you must learn it in this way.” To me, this is abhorrent. I don’t want somebody to tell me what I must learn and how I must learn it. Instead, I want to be able to follow my own interests and choose what I learn. Our youth are almost always told what they will learn and how they will learn it. Too often, they are treated like automatons and told precisely what to do and when to do it. Certainly, there are some very important skills, facts, and principles that students must learn. But, effective learning can, indeed must, include choice. This blog post will consider four ways to effectively introduce choice to the learning process.
As an instructional designer developing higher education courses, we need to look at the big picture. How do the courses in higher education build a pathway for students and how will students proceed through the requirements of their academic program? How do you build objectives for a course to ensure they meet the objectives of the overall program? Is every course within an academic program going to be taken? If not, how do we ensure students are gaining enough knowledge from the program to be successful in the workforce?
The great thing about science is the many opportunities to use fun equipment and tools. Integrating engineering practices adds a new dimension by challenging students to design and build specific products with limited resources. What’s the difference between science and engineering? Simply put, scientists ask questions and construct explanations while engineers define problems and design solutions. How to merge them together? It’s already done for you with the NEXT Generation standards and practices! That being said, here are four ways ways in which you can specifically include engineering in your science course.
Motif, symbol, and theme: Do you know the difference between these three literary terms? Because of the interdependence of these devices, people often use them interchangeably—and incorrectly. It’s usually easy to understand what a symbol is: an image that represents a larger, more abstract idea, the way a flag represents a country or a dove represents peace. Theme isn’t terribly difficult to understand, either; the theme is “big idea” of the story or the life experience the author is trying to convey to the reader. Friendship, love, loss, revenge, and mercy are just a few of a long list of possible literary themes.
Although it is the third mathematical operation that students are exposed to, multiplication tends to be more challenging to students than their previous encounters with addition and subtraction. Yes, a student may be able to memorize their multiplication facts with ease. But what happens when they are asked to go beyond the scope of the multiplication table? Whether it be finding the product of two or more values or simplifying more complicated expressions, there is plenty of room for error. Here are four misconceptions students have when performing multiplication:
Geography is alive and well in social studies. The waxing and waning of geography education as a standalone course is still an important topic of conversation, but social studies educators and curriculum writers remain committed to integrating geography into the other subfields. This list of tips for geography course writers is designed to help with that continued weaving of this important subject into social studies education.
Physics class can be a lot of fun! It doesn’t get much better than rockets, amusement parks, and roller coasters. In order to write a good physics course, make sure you address misconceptions with direct instruction and fun activities like those shown here!
Virtual Field Trip
As a higher education curriculum developer, I enjoy reusing interesting projects that I experienced when I was a college student. One of my favorite graduate courses was one where the entire class took a trip to Washington, D.C. Our task was to go through the city and capture pictures and video of various monuments, landmarks, buildings, and anything else we needed. Then we had to use these pictures and videos to create a video lesson for any subject area we chose. I chose a math topic, measurement, which required the student to use dimensional analysis and three-dimensional formulas to find various measurements of monuments and buildings. My cousin, who is stronger in social studies, developed a course on the branches of government.
Let me preface by saying, yes, grammar is important. While students and even adults might find grammar dry or difficult to study, it serves to make communication as clear as possible to the audience. A lack of good grammar skills can make the speaker or writer seem less educated or less intelligent. Without these skills, the intended message might become unclear or misunderstood, and no one wants to be misunderstood by his or her audience.
In 2015, The Washington Post revealed that a typical (public school) student in the United States takes about 112 standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and graduation. Many educators, as a result of so much testing, have worked to make their students aware of standards. Cognitive and affective standards, in particular, provide powerful ways to make sure all students achieve the success they need not only in their classrooms, but in life. These standards, formed from Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, do a great job of addressing learning as a process. Content developers and educators need to be aware of these processes and domains so that they may craft standards to measure student growth.
Economics is treated differently by each state in terms of the way the curriculum is oriented and how the material is presented. With the recent national emphasis on basic personal finance, there are states, e.g., Virginia, which now require a personal finance course as a prerequisite to graduation. See more information about this trend here. States that take a more traditional path with economics often blend the course into multiple grade levels along with broader social studies content. This blog is intended to give economics course writers, and clients in need of good economics curriculum, some baseline information to guide them through the curriculum development process.
- Both Want a Reason Why Learning the Information Is Important
“Give me a reason why I need to know this information!” This is a common phrase heard throughout every class, at every grade level. Kindergarteners are just building the foundational skills necessary to be academically successful. They want to know that learning how to read, count, and add will be useful to them. While higher education students are typically trying to advance themselves—to be better citizens or find a better career—they want to have reasons why what they are learning will be useful in their career. Ensuring that a course always gives “a need” for learning the topic is essential at all grade levels.
Biology is a fascinating field of study that is literally full of life! From the atoms that come from distant stars to our cells, microbes, and atmosphere, biology plays a role in our daily lives. As biology content writers, we must ensure that our teachers and students know how to reason scientifically. This will enable scientifically literate adults to understand that theories change over time. They will then better realize the importance of big ideas like the Tree of Life, Central Dogma of Biology, evolution, and ecology.
It is important for content developers to know the difference between standards and goals. Why? Because these have the capability of working against or assisting a content developer’s plans. Just like the framework of a house, standards and goals are the heart of a lesson and give it purpose within the educational environment. Read below to learn three quick tips to differentiate between the two:
When it comes to writing good history curriculum, there are a handful of universal truths that cross all of history’s sub-disciplines. The following tips can help writers align curriculum with standards and clients.
In the United States, algebra is seen as the gateway course to higher-level math courses and, in some cases, even college. This is oftentimes a student’s first encounter with abstract mathematical thinking, which leads to confusion and uncertainty. Here are four misconceptions students of all ages have about algebra:
Answering this question doesn’t necessarily mean what type of gaming, graphics, or fun stuff should be added to the course to make the student interested. It means how do you convince the student that the information provided in the course is going to be useful in life or his/her career. Engaging adults is probably more difficult than engaging young children—adults won’t respond to cute games like children will. Adults want to know that they are learning something that will be beneficial to themselves and useful at some point in their life. This is a big question in Higher Ed. and probably one of the hardest ones to answer in some content areas. Make sure you can relate the course material to a useful life skill, knowledge, or application.