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Get Out of the Classroom and into Learning

   

   Here is a small little classroom with children’s desks all in rows.  The teacher’s desk sits prominently in the front of the classroom and lectures might be given at a podium. Most of the student’s daily work is done here, while being seated in this relatively small space. Does this sound something like your classroom? Probably not, as this is a description of The Oldest Wooden School House in Saint Augustine, Florida, which dates back to the early 18th century. This was the daily life of colonial school children. So, what is wrong with that?

Lack of  Physical Activity
   When my grandmother was a child, she once told me that she would walk to school five miles there and five miles back every day. I thought to myself back then, it was probably a welcomed relief for her to be seated in school.  My parents also walked to school. In the old days, most all teens worked at home, on farms or at a part-time job. My dad worked carrying blocks of ice for an ice truck company. My mother worked at an old time soda fountain. Today,  many children don’t work and most children ride the bus, only to be sitting much of the day.  It is known that remaining seated for hours has detrimental effects. As Thompson (2011) stated, there is a need to offer better design solutions for people in the environment, considering the present health challenges (Thompson, 2013). 
Imagine This!
It is the status quo to teach in a small classroom. But, so much more can be done to make learning more interesting and active. Other settings for instruction can inspire everyone’s creativity and make school an even more inventive place.  Shouldn’t schools be involved in some new ideas? Thompson (2013) wrote, “The outdoors leads to greater levels of activity than remaining inside buildings,” (Thompson, 2013).  Here is an example.  Imagine being able to use the 5 senses: hearing, smelling, seeing, touching and feeling motion (Wood & Hall, 2011 in Chin-Shyang & Mei-Ju, 2015).  How about being able to see artwork which reflects the grass, paths, and even a facilities shape? One museum does just that. A children’s playground with famous artist’s work adorns the landscape (Wood & Hall, 2011 in Chin-Shyang & Mei-Ju, 2015).  
Solutions
Obviously, not all communities offer museums with playgrounds or can even afford to transport children back and forth on a regular basis.  But,  the good news is that Outdoor Education (OE) settings can be designed right on school grounds.  The OE designers can be a team of teachers.
Experts suggest that OE designers incorporate the ideas of using the 5 senses in the project, just like the museum (Brittin, Sorensen, Trowbridge, Lee, Breithecker, Frerichs & Huang, 2015). Here are some suggested steps to follow.
1. Choose an outdoor classroom area.  
Weather conditions might require an awning cover or canopy.
2.  The OE space should be near natural learning settings, such as fields, woods or gardens.  
3. OE spaces should make available
(a) gardens for learning and activities 
(b) trails 
(c) natural terrain 
(d) water fountains, and
 (e) power, water, and light to support OE classrooms settings 
(Brittin, Sorensen,Trowbridge, Lee, Breithecker, Frerichs & Huang, 2015).  
A team of teachers can create lesson plans regarding the surrounding environment of the school.  In the middle school I attended years ago, the Boy Scouts blazed a trail for the school children. We took our science journals, wrote about the flora and fauna and drew pictures of what we saw on the trail. My science teacher spoke of the plight of the Monarch butterfly and milkweeds were planted in a field for them to eat. 
But, what about extreme weather conditions? Urban schools? Costs? Read more in my next article, Settings Other Than Schools, Part 2
Imagery supplied by Thinkstock
References
Augustin.com. (n.d). Oldest wooden schoolhouse. Retrieved from  http://augustine.com/thing-to-do/oldest-wooden-school-house

Brittin, J., Sorensen, D., Trowbridge, M., Lee, K. K., Breithecker, D., Frerichs, L., & Huang, T. (2015). Physical activity design guidelines for school architecture. Plos ONE, 10(7), 1. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132597

Chin-Shyang, S., & Mei-Ju, C. (2015). Whose aesthetics world? Exploration of aesthetics cultivation from the children’s outdoor playground experiential value perspective International Journal of Organizational Innovation, 8(2), 158-171.

Thompson, C.W. (2013). Activity, exercise and the planning and design of outdoor spaces. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 34, 79-93

Regards,
Lynn @ TiePlay Educational Resources
TiePlay Educational Resources LLC

Interesting Narrative Helps Students Connect

They say that necessity breeds ingenuity.  There is truth in that.  I was terribly bored when the whole idea of teaching the curriculum through the narrative hit me.  As the drone of the “professional development” presenter faded into the background of my thoughts,  I started to wish that I had chosen a different session. Suddenly, I realized that I often do the same thing to my students.  I bore them.  If I wanted to learn from this session, then I needed it to be relevant, engaging and connected to my teaching practice.  That got me thinking, what if this presenter were presenting me with the same information, but it was presented through “story”.  Then I would be interested. Suddenly, there it was; the entire concept for Quest Teaching.  What if… I  could craft a story that would connect many curriculum concepts throughout the narrative, for my students.

Then the teacher in me came out and I started to think about the criteria for the story. This is what I came up with:

1. It would have to be good literature; not filled with contrived dialogue imparting knowledge to my students, but rather a fast paced exciting quest that would hook them into the learning before they knew what was happening.

2.  It would have to have all the elements of good literature: well developed characters with which the kids could connect, action woven throughout an intricate plot, interesting vocabulary to increase their love of words, use the variety of literary techniques that I teach them to use, and of course, be centered around a problem that was curriculum related, but kid relevant.

curricularconnections

Click to see all the topic/chapter curricular connections!

3.  I wanted the story to provide jumping off points for lessons in science, social studies and language arts at a minimum, and   hopefully link to other subjects, too.  Could it provide a hook to learn about mapping while it also led into a lesson about rocks and minerals? (Can you tell I’m a theme teacher at heart?)

Could this be done?  I’ve always loved writing, so was I crazy enough to try?  The answer is yes!  I planned the story and it all came together. All the skills and concepts I wanted them to learn could be embedded in the plot!  I started by modelling the writing process with my class. Each week I would share the new chapter that I wrote, after planning and marking, of course.

The response was magic! They loved it, and begged for more.  It really worked better than I ever imagined. My students identified with the characters, and rooted for them while they were taken through the story and they loved the page- turner endings of most chapters. But, the best part was – the story gave me a way to connect all their learning. The “remember when…” factor provided me with the jumping off point for lessons that I was seeking.  As the students identified with all that the characters had gone through, they connected it to the classroom lessons and therefore, they were immediately interested and engaged.

The_Ultimate_Treasur_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Click here: Now available on Amazon

Today, one year and one month later, I received the first shipment of the paperback novels. I am now a published author and I am now thrilled to offer this exciting quest to other teachers, parents and anyone who loves a good story and loves helping others learn about the wonderful planet we live on.  It is my quest to help you take youth on a Quest that will incite them to find the Ultimate Treasure of Learning!

The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the Civil War Era

candle star kindle insertLesson Title: The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the Civil War Era
Written by: Michelle Isenhoff
Length: 45-60 min.
Grade Level: 5-8
*This lesson plan, including the entire text of both poems, is available as a free pdf.

Lesson Overview:
Students will relate the experiences expressed within Longfellow’s poems to the cultural context of the Civil War era portrayed within the children’s historical novel, The Candle Star.

Introduction
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was America’s most popular poet of the nineteen century. He began his literary career in 1839 and wrote until his death in 1882, a span of years that included the American Civil War. Poetry was the primary storytelling media of the day—long before fiction and cinema overtook it. It was an age that still embraced Puritan thought and morality, which his work epitomized. His poems came across as unaffected and sincere, leading to a public image of a kindly, sympathizing, encouraging friend. His poems included his honest response to tragedy—with which so many could easily identify during the war—and simple everyday pleasures—to which a war torn nation longed to return. His popularity would decline sharply as America headed into the postmodernism and world wars of the early twenty-first century, but during Longfellow’s own lifetime he enjoyed tremendous success.

longfellow

Longfellow’s work was melodic and easy to read. He used standard forms, regular meter, and rhymed verses. They were easy to memorize in school or recite at home, which made them popular as family entertainment. Keep in mind, there was no television, no radio, not even electric lighting. Evenings were dark, quiet, and spent together as a family.

“Autumn” and “The Bridge” were both published in the volume entitled The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems (1845). “Autumn” is a metaphor for the changes that take place in life. “The Bridge recalls the pain of personal tragedy.

Objectives:
1. Students will read, analyze, and understand two poems written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
2. Students will learn the terms simile and metaphor.
3. Students will identify mood created by word pictures within poetry.
4. Students read and recognize literature as a record of human experience and identify its historical significance.
5. Students will respond to the poems and related them to their own life experience.

Preparation/Materials:
You will need a copy of Longfellow’s poems “Autumn” and “The Bridge”. Some background knowledge of Longfellow’s life and times is beneficial. Read his full biography here.

Activity:
1. Begin by asking students what they know about the American Civil War based on their reading of The Candle Star and other prior knowledge. List their responses on the board. Then ask them what it might have been like to live in such a time period. Discuss such things as the lack of modern conveniences such as electricity, the lack of modern entertainment, and the hardships of war.

2. Introduce the two poems “Autumn” and “The Bridge.” Explain that both are examples of poetry written by the very popular American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Explain that both were written in the two decades leading up to the Civil War but that Longfellow’s works remained popular long after the war. Ask the class to consider what they know about life during the Civil War era and think about what might have made Longfellow’s work so well liked during this time period.

3. Read “Autumn” aloud to the class. (Younger students: You may want to shorten it by choosing just one stanza.)

4. Identify and define any vocabulary words then discuss the meaning of the poem. (Older students: You may wish to also discuss how the poem’s meaning can be extended to represent the changes in life, not just the weather.)

5. Introduce the idea of word pictures and explain the terms simile and metaphor. Identify some similes and metaphors within the poem and discuss how they create a mood. What mood does the poem set?

6. Ask the students how this poem might be received by people experiencing the Civil War.

7. Repeat the exercises 4, 5, and 6 with “The Bridge.”

Assessment/Culminating Activity:
Ask the students to choose their favorite of the two poems. Assign a written response that explains why they chose that particular poem. What did they like or not like about it? What kind of emotion does it provoke? Then ask students to relate it to their own life experience. How are they able to identify with the poem? What has happened in their own lives that provokes their response?