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Learning by Doing… Does Your Classroom Measure Up To Inquiry Based Science?

May 2, 2017

What is your learning style? Can you identify the preferred learning style of each of your students?

If you give it some thought, it is more than likely that every possible learning style preference is represented in your classroom. That can make it difficult to provide a successful learning environment for all of your students, but there is one method that will have all of your students covered.

More “doing” in your classroom rather than listening and reading can ensure success for all of your students. Let’s look at science as an example. You could give your students a book and tell them to read about motion and forces, accompanying that with a discussion about what they read. If you are in a first-grade classroom, you can imagine the fidgeting that is going on. Even if you have sixth-grade students, you likely lost at least some of the class out of boredom or simple misunderstanding. You could add a demonstration and show your students what happens when you push a toy car across the floor, for example, introducing new vocabulary in the process. Now they are likely engaged, and visual learners will have a better understanding of the concept you are teaching, but how much of what you just showed them will they remember?

How does their learning change if you hand small groups of students a toy car to conduct their own experiments? By doing this, even your first graders are going to start thinking about what factors affect how far that car will move because they are going to get to experience it themselves. You can guide their experience by giving them specific questions that they need to discover the answer to, and they will remember the learning because it is a discovery they made on their own. Requiring a written analysis of the results or some type of visual representation of the data they collect will also help.

Doing this type of activity will satisfy all of the learning styles. Visual learners will see the concept in action. Auditory learners will have the benefit of discussing the concept with their classmates. Kinesthetic learners will get the experience of physically conducting their own experiment. And those with a reading/writing preference can record what they have seen to help them process the experiment.

Science seems like the logical subject to apply a “doing” model of instruction, but this can also be applied to language arts, math, and social studies. For students working on strengthening their reading skills, you can have them work with a group to conduct a reader’s theater, acting out what they are reading or even what they have written. Math students can use manipulatives to work out problems. In social studies, students can try to dress like people in the cultures they are studying, develop their own maps, or create models of what they are learning about. I once had a male student voluntarily put on a medieval fashion show for his classmates that even included dresses that ladies of the era would have worn. Giving your students a little latitude to explore the details of a topic that interests them will give the learning more meaning, helping them internalize their discoveries.

Of course doing these types of activities makes for a louder classroom, but it will also make the learning much more memorable for your students. Let your students get out of their desks and try doing these things with some guidance from you, and you and your lesson will likely be the topic at dinner that night—in a good way.

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