Teaching Active Learning is a tough job… and knowing what exactly to do with a class full of Active Learners is even tougher. So what can you do to be successful in an active learning room and how are some tips for modifying activities for active learning?
Teaching in Active Learning Classrooms
I remember way back in the day doing classroom observations as part of my certification process. I was in an active learning classroom and, in a 30 minute observation, I nearly fell asleep multiple times. It was so boring.
I remember too, right before I left, thanking the teacher and telling her it was great. She grimaced her face and said “Really?”
The disbelief dripped from her voice and was written all over her face. Even she knew it was boring as can be. So if I was bored and the teacher was bored… what were the students?
You guessed it.
What is Active Learning
Active Learning is just what is sounds like- things are actively engaging. The classroom is stimulating and the learning environment has:
* Hands On Activities with Academic and Functional Tasks
* Multi-Sensory Instruction & Materials (to see, hear, feel, smell, etc.)
* Highly Interactive Activities with Small Groups and Peer Interactions
* Very Little Down Time
What Is the Point?
Students in the Active Learning setting are severely and profoundly disabled. They will oftentimes have difficulty with the following and need help to:
* Respond to their Name
* Understand Cause and Effect
* Communicate Wants and Needs
* Attend to Things for Extended Durations
So what do you do? Can you ever get them to do these things? And what is the point?
First off, please always feel like there is purpose. We never know the true functioning level the students we work with. Read about the Least Dangerous Assumption for more. And sometimes even the smallest advancement can be huge for a student and their overall success.
Am I Reading to Myself?
That’s how it feels sometimes, right? You are reading to a student and they never respond… it starts to feel like you are reading to yourself. You are doing all these activities hand-over-hand and it starts to feel like being a puppet master- it may feel pointless.
So what do you do? How do you make it meaningful?
Change the Delivery
First off, thank you for reading to your students. One of the first things that falls off the To-Do list in active learning classrooms is academics. It is so easy to get caught up in personal care needs and positioning/transitioning/transporting, that we forget we are teachers too.
So, when you are reading to a student, there is a lot to be said about having great voice. Be engaged and charismatic. But then also have some things to support your great reading. You can do that by:
* Pairing text with picture representations or real objects
* Summarize often and point out the big ideas
* Make interactives that are more engaging (here is a great example for colors)
* Use photos, video, and tactile materials
You can also use things like response cards to always ask questions about colors, numbers, or feelings… like the ones HERE.
Wait… Academic Content?
When I talk about academic content, people look at me like “For Real”?
Yeah, for real.
Try these things:
- Again, focus on the big idea. You will not be able to get to everything related to the content, but make sure you are at least hitting all the big ideas.
- Touch on Academics and also on Functional Skills. Functional skills have a place in the classroom with students who are severely disabled- but they should not be the only thing. If you are not including any academic, you are getting it all wrong. Same if you are only hitting on Academics- be sure to hit some functional skills as well.
- Do the new stuff, but always his a lot of review of old materials. Curriculum moves fast, but our students need a lot of review, so be sure to review old big ideas often.
- Finally, be sure to make things interactive and use multiple modalities.
- Avoid down time. Down time is nap time… and there is no napping in school. So please, please, please keep things active and interactive.
So… there you have it. Active learning in a nutshell. BUT I want you to have something to to take back to your classroom. ENJOY THIS FREEBIE from the Response Cards Set in my TPT Store… and start using it today!