Learning ,by acting and doing! #Experiential learning.

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Ι assume,all teachers recognize that children learn best through direct experience ,simply by providing them abundant opportunities for experiential learning—experiential learning is the process of learning by doing. By engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are better able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

To me, the way we learn is the way we approach life in general. It is also the way we solve problems, make decisions, and meet life’s challenges. Learning occurs in any setting and continues throughout our life. 

“There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”
— David A. Kolb

At the core of my classes, self-directed play and exploration of materials allow for cooperative social interaction and support my students’ construction of knowledge about the world around them and this is crucial!

SOME THEORY

THE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE

According to research, learners retain 75% of what they do compared to 5% of what they hear or 10% of what they read (study). In a world where there are many distractions amongst the learning environment (think cell phones and other forms of technology), experiential learning keeps students engaged and attentive to the learning goal .

David Kolb’s work on the experiential learning cycle is among the most influential approaches to learning I have read about.

The experiential learning cycle is a four-step learning process: Experience – Reflect – Think – Act.

While verb drills and memorisation may have their places in language acquisition, taking a more interactive approach can offer students a wide range of important benefits when learning English.

All in all, by practicing their language skills through fun activities like cooking, photography, arts and crafts, music, drama, and sports, students can develop their skills much more quickly than they would through less active teaching methods.

“Learning by doing” can also boost students’ motivation and desire to learn, help them develop practical language skills that can be applied in their daily lives, and boost their confidence in their own English language abilities.

When students are learning a new language, it’s important not only to equip them with the basic grammar and vocabulary they’ll need to progress, but also to spark their interest and keep them motivated.

Therefore, learning English through fun activities makes second language acquisition an engaging, joyful, and interactive experience, building students’ motivation and ensuring they’re always looking forward to their next English lesson.

Benefits of Experiential Learning

There are many benefits to experiential learning.For example, students are able to receive a deeper understanding of the content being taught. Experiential learning also increases engagement and participation. 

By incorporating experiential learning into our curricular learning, we can result in a real mindset change, through learning skills such as leadership, empathy, collaboration, and communication through meaningful opportunities to practice.

If these benefits have not convinced you on this teaching and learning method, below there are a few experiential learning activities that have worked in my classes and  you can use in your class to help solidify the use of more hands-on activities in your classroom.

A growth mindset embraces learning by doing.

In my experience, students respond better when being engaged in practical activities, rather than reading from textbooks.

So, getting the children involved in practical activities that teach them English, among other subjects, is a highly effective way of engaging them in their learning.

Gone are the days when I was a student and where we were seated in rows and listened, for what seemed like hours, to the teacher on a particular topic.  It was as if the students were considered empty vessels to fill up. There was no time for trial and error for us to ‘play’ with various concepts or to learn a particular concept further. 

Course material would be taught in a predetermined way . With little ‘play’, one approach to learning and a fixed way of looking at the learning process, this could only lead to a very limited mindset to what each individual student could achieve.

Contrary to this view and at the heart of what makes the growth mindset( please, click on the link to read all about it in an older blog post of mine) so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

 

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Experiential Learning Activities to try ,that have worked in my class

Scavenger Hunt

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Scavenger hunts are great experiential learning activities that get students moving and thinking. These hunts often involve having students solve riddles and clues, and students must work together to get to the next stop. Make the hunt lead to a reveal of the class field trip, incentive party, or as a study guide before the next test. The options are limitless and sure to excite our learners!

Put on a Play

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What better way for our students to work on their cooperation, leadership, and creativity skills than by practicing and presenting a play. Maybe our students have just learned a new topic.. Use a pre-found script (a simple Google search is sure to provide many), or have older students create their own. You can also use the course book dialogues or a picture book as a starting point for a play. Theater is a great hands-on experience, and my students do love showing off their acting skills!

Engineering and ELT?

Giving students the opportunity to build is appealing for so many. These sorts of experiential learning activities can be used as part of the curriculum, for brain breaks, for projects or as fun school-wide competitions. You can have students use straws and other recyclable materials to build practically anything related to any topic! The competitive atmosphere of these sorts of building competitions creates excitement and fosters class unity.

Games students play

Games or gamification of courses can be a way of keeping students engaged and motivated while achieving the learning goals in a way that is fun and low risk. Points ,stickers or badges can be awarded for satisfactory participation or completion of the game or goals in the game. Allowing repeat play of games also enables students to see failure as  indication that more work is needed to master the skill or knowledge at hand.

As educators, we can incorporate gaming elements (gamification) into other components of our course, include gaming activities or even structure the entire course like a game!

Games or gaming elements can be designed to be competitive or non-competitive. A competitive element, such as an individual-based or team-based point system, can facilitate friendly competition to make activities or the course fun and active. Games can also be non-competitive and have students work towards achievements and badges in class that signify proficiency with a learning outcome or goal. I have tried both, I can recommend both.

Ask students to bring in their own realia

If you want to get to know students better you can ask them to bring in several items from home that they feel represent them. If you’re teaching online, students can hold objects up to their camera instead. Have them present these items to the class and explain why they chose each object. For a variation of this activity, have classmates guess how the objects represent their fellow students. Students love to share things about themselves and are usually excited about activities that involve getting to talk about their own lives.

 Incorporate realia into a writing prompt

To make writing assignments come to life, I often bring in random objects and place them at the front of the classroom. I have students write a short story (usually with a prompt) incorporating all or a certain number of the objects. This activity gets students to think outside of the box and reflect on how we use the vocabulary they’ve learned in everyday life. It’s a great one for both the physical and virtual classroom as well, as you can simply hold the objects up to the screen if you’re teaching online.

Memory

I in a virtual classroom, quickly pass objects by the screen, one after the other. See if students can recall which objects they saw and whether they can name them in the correct order. If you’re in a physical classroom, you can set the items out on a desk and hide each object under a cloth ,in a box or in a paper bag. Then, lift the bag/cloth/box for a few seconds to reveal the object. You could also play “Memory” with hand-made vocabulary cards or use any items available such as cups, maps, toys, to help students boost their memory .

To me, if you’re wondering how to teach/revise vocabulary, this is a great activity, as you can choose items from a specific theme/category (ABC,food, sports, objects that are different shapes or colors, etc.).

 What is it?

I suggest that you fill a bag/box with realia and have students take turns trying to guess what one of the objects is by putting their hand in the bag/box and feeling it. They can use vocabulary to describe the object to their classmates as they guess. This game can be adapted to the virtual classroom by hiding an object in a bag or under a cloth. Students can have a look at the shape and listen to you describe the object (e.g., it’s heavy, it’s round, etc.) while they try to guess what it is.

CONCLUSION

We all know that,every child learns in a way that is unique to themselves. Experiential learning activities help to take all students’ learning styles and make the activity suitable for a diverse group of learners. The benefits make experiential teaching worth a try. So do a scavenger hunt, put on a play, plant some seeds, rot an apple, or build a tower. Students are sure to walk away with powerful and memorable learning experiences.

Here is a link to visit and find out a lot more about experiential learning activities and useful tables such as this one, below.

Traditional learning activities

Experiential learning activities

Teacher-centered/focused Student-centered/focused
Learning outcomes are prescribed to a fixed rubric or scoring system Learning outcomes are flexible and open
Aim to explain knowledge and/or skills by transferring information Aim to develop knowledge and skills through experience
Fixed structure, high degree of facilitation Flexible structure, minimal facilitation

Me, behind the mask!

It all started with…. a mask, the day the schools reopened, after the lockdown!

You see, in the beginning of the school year, I always give my class helpers, a simple badge that can be laminated or put in a badge holder so that children can take it in turns to be a classroom helper. A great resource that the children love and show great pride in being picked as a classroom helper.

But, this is a different school year! Therefore, my helpers had to wear helpers’ masks, instead of …badges!

And this is when I ran into this article and this video, got inspired and instantly decided to create a new project for my students, titled :

“ME, Behind My Mask”.

The project ,in a nutshell

When my students came back to school ,in September,they were asked to mask-up. We always seem to start out school year with a selfie and a class photo, so I was bummed when I thought of the idea of my students drawing themselves with their best facial feature hidden…I was really puzzled, till the moment I read the article, mentioned above, where the idea of this surprise drawing came from.

We simply used paper, permanent marker, coloring markers and crayons.

First, I posted the video and simple instructions ,in our asynchronous class platform and I asked the students to create their Me-behind-the-mask selfies, at home and bring them back to class !

That was a typical example of flipped classroom, of course.

FLIPPED CLASSROOM ,IS HERE TO STAY

Thanks to a handful of educators who care more about their students and their success than keeping the school’s general status quo, the flipped classroom model is no longer a theory, and keeps spreading across more and more educational institutions.

What does a flipped classroom look like? Well, physically, the same as a normal classroom.

But instead of paying attention to lectures while in class and applying the new knowledge in their homework after school, students will watch or listen to the lectures at home, before the class starts, and use the time in the classroom to do their homework. Instead of telling students what to learn, how to learn, when to learn and how to prove that they learned, teachers support them in becoming self-directed learners. I personally, love this!

In our case, my students could submit assessments using online tools, I could send assessments to students via our e-me asynchronous platform. Other online assessment tools, we used included Google FormsKahoot, and Quizlet.

Additionally, your students could be encouraged to submit video recordings of themselves using applications like Flipgrid. Sadly, our parents were reluctant to allow me use any video recordings.

Last, but not least, I made sure that I provided timely, specific, and instructionally focused feedback.

All in all, no one is excited about wearing a mask but…it’s for our safety! And the best thing we can do for our students is to put a positive spin on it, right?

The project, step-by-step

The first thing I decided to do was to teach them the adjectives they would use on their selfies, in order to be able to describe themselves.

I used one of my most favourite online tools: Quizlet.

I used Quizlet to introduce them to adjectives to describe CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY , asynchronously.

I also used youtube videos, such as this one, to teach them about the vocabulary they would need, to describe their APPEARANCE.

Additionaly, I used more youtube videos, such as this , to help them learn how to describe their personalities, asynchronously.

On top of that, I used another of my favourite online tools : edpuzzle. A great tool to create amazing video lessons ,in a minute! Edpuzzle is the missing piece for remote learning! We can also track students’ progress with Edpuzzle’s hassle-free analytics as we flip our classroom!

“The ABC’s of YOU” is probably, my most favourite Alphabet kids song, of all! Please, visit to see for yourselves.

The next step, was to ask them to write a paragraph ,presenting themselves to their classmates. After they had done so in their notebooks , I decided to create a PADLET WALL to have them share their paragraphs, in our asynchronous e-me hive, as well.

My amazing students’ self-portraits BEHIND THE MASK, have been displayed, in a book creator tool, for sometime now! My students, were regularly encouraged to visit it , from home, as well.

Finally, I decided to add all the links we had used both synchronously and asynchronously, in one presentation tool ,which I truly love: Microsoft SWAY ! Highly recommended!

Games we played

To be able to practice all the new words and put theory into practice in class, we have tried several games, in the school classroom.

The games listed below may require some modification to meet the social distancing restrictions but should give any big class a great starting point for coming up with fun games to play.

1.​Name Game

Every member of the class chooses an adjective that starts with the same letter as the first letter of their first name. They put that adjective in front of their first name, and they have their new name. So for example: Joyful Jill. For an added challenge, you can see if people can remember everyone’s names throughout the conversation. 

2.Guess who

The Guess Who ESL game is a fun way to practise describing people adjectives with young students, in-class or as a warmer. I encouraged my students to use the adjectives which describe personality more than the ones which describe appearance.

Specifically, it’s great for question formation and practising the different auxiliary verbs that may be used (e.g. Is she old? Does she have brown hair? Is she wearing glasses?).

A similar game for large kids classes (that doesn’t require any special resources) is Classroom Guess Who.

3.Two Truths and a Lie

This is a fun, classic game that allows students to share some little known facts about themselves while trying to stump their classmates too. Each student will write down two true statements and one lie about themselves. In my class, they were asked to include personality and appearance adjectives in all their statements.

We let them know that they can put these statements in any order as the goal is for the class to try to figure out which one is the lie. Although this can be done without writing it down, I have found that with elementary-aged students it is very beneficial to give students thinking time first. Otherwise, you end up with students who try to think when it is their turn and it makes the truths and lie very obvious.

After everyone is done writing down their sentences, then I go around the room having students read their 3 statements. The class will then vote on which they think is the lie. After the vote, the student will reveal the lie and can explain the truths if there is time.

 4. Quiz Time

As soon as they mastered the target vocabulary, I made my first pop quiz of the year ,about the class. At the end of the first week, I created a pop quiz asking questions about what they learned. My students loved being the stars of the questions!

You can make it a paper and pencil quiz or use an app like Kahoot, Quizziz or Google Forms to make a digital pop quiz. This is a great way to introduce a new type of digital activity that you will use during the year too!

 5. 20 Questions

Play a game of 20 questions (or use the number that is the same as the number of students you have so that each person can ask 1 question). Choose 1 person to pick a secret word(personality adjectives, in our case ) and have them write it down or tell the teacher. Then challenge the class to work together to figure out what the person is. This will require students to listen to each other’s questions, the answers and think about related follow-up questions that might help to narrow down the secret word.

After everyone has asked a question, then let each student take one guess.

6. Bucket List

Each student, comes up with 5 top adjectives from their selfie, on their bucket list. Then they share and see what they have in common, with other class members. They could even take those similarities and use them to connect in the real world .

7.​Pictionary​

Students , brought their selfie ” Me, behind the mask” in class.

Then, they had to describe that picture while the rest have to draw it.

When time was up, or when the person describing decided to stop, they showed their pictures to the rest of the class and the describer chose the winner.

8. True or False?

A great way to reinforce what has just been taught.

Instead of the traditional pop-quiz to see how much the kids retained from the personality adjectives list, I tried something a bit different…

I asked the students to find paper and instructed them to make a collection of scrunched up paper balls. I put two pictures on two different classroom walls , one with a true sign, one with a false one.

I asked a series of true/false questions, using as many personality and appearance adjectives as possible, about different students. If the kids thought it was true, they ditched a paper ball at the true sign, and false if they thought it was false.

While this can be quite messy ,it can be a light hearted way to review what has been learnt.

My conclusions

a.When we reinforce self-esteem and resilience in our students, we equip them with critical skills they need to succeed socially and academically. 

When we communicate genuine, realistic appreciation and encouragement to our students, it’s a powerful way to nurture self-esteem and resilience. 

b.I have to admit, that for kindergarten and primary teachers, teaching younger children while masked ,also presents challenges — specifically related to students’ social-emotional learning.

Non-verbal cues carry up to 55 per cent of the emotional content of messages. Without those cues, a lot of important information is missed.

c.Furthermore, the mouth and eyes are even more important than other facial features when interpreting expression. In contrast to adults who get most non-verbal social information from speakers’ eyes, young children pay most attention to speakers’ mouths. This elevates the challenge of clearly communicating emotions to children while wearing a mask.

d.What is more, vocal strain is a significant occupational hazard in teaching, and the increased volume necessary to be understood when wearing a mask may contribute to this risk.

I really hope, the project idea presented here can enhance the learning experiences of young students in the new world of COVID-19 aware classrooms.

Team work ,matters!

The ability to work together with others as part of a team is not simply a skill needed at school, it is a vital skill used in all areas of life. For me, school is, an excellent time to cultivate the teamwork skills, children will then draw from, throughout their life.

 

For a team to work together effectively, it takes all members of the team to respect each other’s abilities and opinions. Teamwork is a highly social activity and involves much interaction and exchanging of ideas and actions. We all understand that, being part of a team enables a child to move from more intrapersonal (individual) ways of thinking to interpersonal (communicating with others). It will help students in all areas of their learning, and help them to feel part of a community, too.

The biggest problem in my country’s educational system is that, teamwork is not encouraged at schools- at least, not as much as it should be….

Working as part of a team will strengthen students’ social and emotional skills, help develop their communication skills, and can improve confidence.

Team games, are also important…From experience, the best way to teach children English is to not only get them physically involved within the lesson, but also to create the illusion that they are simply playing games. And rather than focus on individual development, it is also a very good idea to promote class interaction as far as possible.

Even very young learners can become independent in their learning and guided early on they will be more likely to grow into autonomous and successful language learners.

Creative use of language makes communication possible even when students may not know the perfect grammar for what they are trying to say.Nothing is more true to life than that.

When students work in groups, they have to work together to accomplish a goal. Even when the use of grammar is weak in these collaborations, communication happens, and that will give your students an advantage, when they have to face communication in the English speaking world.

Encouragement in class,is crucial ! One way encouragement comes, is when lower level students see the accomplishments of higher level students.Less accomplished students will become better speakers just by talking to others more advanced than them, without help and without pressure….When they work in groups, I see that students help each other learn.

One of the most important things for me, as far as group work is concerned, is speaking!

Putting our students in groups, gets them speaking up and practicing the language that they are trying to learn. And, speaking, is not top priority in the Greek language class…. not even in the private Greek Language schools-“Frodisteria”…

Students who are kinesthetic learners, will benefit greatly from learning through games and group work,too. Students of varying English levels can work together to support each other, make decisions together and learning from one another. Games and group work can involve all of the aspects of language—listening, speaking, reading and writing.

 

In our class, children experience teamwork in many different forms. They may be asked to work in pairs, small groups, or larger groups on a variety of different things. They may be asked to work in teams for physical activities such as ball games or running games or more formal activities such as projects. Children also often form their own team activities during their play time.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato

I am sharing an interesting post about the benefits of Team Building, here

 

Benefits of Team Building

1.  Getting to know each other better
2.  Bonding
3.  Building team spirit
4.  Encouraging tolerance and understanding
5.  Creating a sense of belonging and connectivity
6.  Creating a climate of cooperation and collaborative problem-solving
7.  Improving motivation
8.  Improving communication within the group
9.  Team development – Building a community with a common purpose
10. Developing trust, care, compassion, kindness and creating empathy (Trusting each other AND yourselves)
11. Building self-esteem

12. Creating an understanding and awareness of individual differences, personality strengths and  weaknesses
13. Breaking down barriers
14. Creativity – Doing things differently! Out of the box!!
15. Higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment.And all the time … Having a huge amount of FUN