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Using Prior Knowledge  
Elephant 1 Elephant 2
(click on either drawing for an enlarged image)

The activation of students' prior knowledge is perhaps the single most powerful tool a teacher has. By using short descriptive writing, simple verbal explanations, or with creative images as seen above, students can pull from a vast experiential and knowledge base. It is on this prior knowledge that the teacher can begin scaffolding further comprehension of a concept. Here, I gave the students a problem of trying to move an elephant into a fenced zoo enclosure that had no roof or gates. As a group they came up with many ideas, from helicopters and cranes, to ramps and even dynamite. It was with these depictions and explanations that I "assessed" their present understanding of simple machines before embarking on a simple machine unit of study.

Making Learning Engaging  

For almost any individual learning can be made more engaging by focusing on a particular interest of the individual. Incorporating a concept into an already familiar example or reference point will further ensure that the learner is engaged and taking an active part in his or her learning. After an exhausting study of Newton's Laws of Motion and other forces that affect motion I gave the students an opportunity to incorporate their new knowledge of motion into a project that would serve as both an assessment and a review for the coming test. After eliciting responses as to what would make a successful board game (i.e. - dice, spinner, pieces to move, colorful game board, well thought out questions, clear start and finish) I had the students create their own lists as to what would make a decent board game. After more discussion I gave them the task of creating "Fun in Motion" board games which used every term and definition from the chapter we had just studied in Science. The students were not only excited to be creating their own games, but also relished the prospect of creating questions and cards based on the definitions that were difficult enough to stump one another. They reviewed the material for the test and had the opportunity to gain experience working as a group.

Board Game 1

Board Game 2

Board Game 3

Board Game 4

(click on any of the board game to see an enlarged image)


Through increased integration of technology, students are able to take the concept of real world projects like board games, and create even more immersive and engaging learning tools. Creating databases, using spreadsheets, and producing presentations which challenge their notion of what Office Software can do, learners are given new perspectives on class materials and how production software can be utilized beyond more basic uses. Below are examples of a few projects which my students have created using PowerPoint. The presentation on Mummification is not a typical slideshow, in that the user is encouraged to interact with the presentation, clicking on links, and directing their own experience with the presentation. We designed this project with a children's museum in mind and newer electronic and digital displays you might find at a museum. The student created a self-guided museum exhibit designed to enhance a larger exhibit on Ancient Egypt, and succeeded quite well. The other two presentations were based on earlier projects that I had previously done on paper with my students. One uses PowerPoint's ability to have objects move in order to illustrate Sir Isaac Newton's laws of motion, while the presentation is another example of an interactive Ancient Egypt exhibit.

Click the image above to view a web-friendly version of Mummification

Click the image above to download the actual Newton's Illustrated Laws of Motion

Click the image above to view a web-friendly version of Egyptian Writing


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