Saturday, March 20, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life

There is an amazing variety of educators on The Gateway to 21st Century Skills. We are linked together by the common goal of making a difference in the lives of our students while still having time to maintain a life of our own outside the classroom. We teach a wide range of grade levels and subjects, and we all want to equip our students with the right skills to succeed in the 21st century. When we cook a meal, we need a full set of spices to create just the right flavor. In teaching, we need to use a full range of tools and types of activities to complement the variety of students and teachers working together to become productive members of 21st century society.

The 21st century skill Joann focuses on in her picks for this week is financial literacy. This is a very timely topic right now, and students and teachers are exposed to the problem in the media and at home every day. Please take some time to look through the resources this week, even if you don’t think you will be able to use them directly in your class. The beauty of these examples is in the variety of activities they include and the extension activities that you can use to engage even more of your students.

The lessons from Thirteen Ed Online are good examples of well-planned activities that aim to reach students with all different learning styles. The first resource, CyberCurrency, starts with a group brainstorming session to create a class learning discovery chart, clips from a PBS show to introduce topics, and a simulation to illustrate the benefits and limitations of the barter system. You are letting your students learn by seeing, hearing, and doing.

Looking back at the resources we have highlighted over the past ten weeks, I see all kinds of activities that get our students thinking in different ways. The Gateway has lots of standards-based resources that can meet your needs with little or no modification. Not all of our resources give you this kind of variety straight out of the box, though. Sometimes you have to put a little work into varying the types of activities you present to your class. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut and doing the same types of activities every day, be sure to look at extension activities included with many of the resources. These can help you add more variety to your lessons.

The following examples stick to the theme of financial literacy learning, but they can easily be adapted to another skill you are working on right now. Do your students like to get up and move? Make giant coins and bills out of poster board, and have them jump on the correct denominations to answer money questions. Do they learn best by teaching one another? Split up the important points you want to cover, and allow small groups to present the ideas to their classmates. (Don’t forget about some of the neat presentation tools we have talked about in previous weeks!) Are your students hands-on learners? Maybe you can have them to create their own currency to simulate a store in your classroom to see how well it would really work. In the example from Thirteen Ed Online, they use paper donuts as currency. Using real donuts as currency in your class “store” could be a fun and memorable way to help students understand the limitations of the donuts as a form of “money.” Many students can also benefit from writing down what they learn at the end of each activity. Using a journal with your students at the end of the lessons can be a good check of understanding for you, and it may help your students see what they are learning as well.

You work hard and spend a lot of time preparing lessons each day. Whether you plan your lesson completely from scratch or adapt one you find online, take it one final step and make sure you include enough variety to appeal to all the different learners in your classroom.

~Peggy's Corner~

Example of a comic strip assignment for a Chemistry assignment:

Find a huge variety of lessons on

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