In chapter 11 of Brain Matters it states, “John Dewey contended that school should be less about preparation for life and more like life itself (1937) (Wolfe, 169).” This quote from Dewey really makes me look at how I teach my classroom in a different way. I have always felt that preparing students for life is the most important part about my job. In the past I have focused on helping my students learn about how to become a better friend, citizen and overall person using problem solving strategies. These lessons have been taught in different scenarios and I have even had my students act out and role play problems and solutions.
Wolfe states, “teachers can find actual problems in their own schools and communities for students to solve (Wolfe, 170)”. I really want to find a way to incorporate a smaller scale of this idea for my kinders. We are currently doing informative writing and later in the year my students will be learning how to use research data bases to find information to support their writing. Finding a way to get student into the action of solving a problem to allow for some real hands on experience would improve their learning and retention. Wolfe mentions, “Many of our strongest neural networks are formed by actual experience (Wolfe 169).” We have spent a lot of time in classes discussing how quickly and how high the percentage of information that is taught, is lost after the students walk out the door. Giving students the hands on learning, where they are able to put their problem solving strategies to use over a week or two time frame, would support their ability to recall and therefore remember materials. Solving a real-life problem would fully support those skills. Dewey mentioned how most schools have students developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills but they are almost always hypothetical case studies. They are not addressed in the classroom. They are typically taught by lecture and recitation of the information given during instruction. Wolfe mentions that by having students solve a real problem within their community or school, “students learn both content and critical thinking (Wolfe 170).”
A lot of discussion was swirling this week about how important visuals are in our teaching. Less is more. Lessons and information that are jam packed with words quickly become ineffective for our students. Wolfe supports this discussion in chapter 12, when she states, “Not only are visuals powerful retention aids, but they also serve to increase understanding,” (Wolfe, 184). It is important to really tie these two topics of discussion together. While solving those real-life problems in the classroom, it is important to be showing students how to access databases and how to use visuals to support their learning and presenting. It is just as important for students to understand the importance of visuals as teachers. When we were students growing up giving presentations about different topics from kindergarten all the way through college, no one ever told me how less is more, how important visuals were for retaining and recalling information. Medina states, “the more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized-and recalled (Medina, 233).” As students we were pushed to give as much information as possible and that typically resulted to PowerPoint slides in 8 pt font so we could fit everything on! As current educators, it is our responsibility to not only use this in our own practice, but also to teach our students about the importance of these topics too so they can apply it into their daily work.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 10 Vision (1st ed., pp. 233). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.169-184). Arlington, VA: ASCD.