Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Lesson in Understanding

Recently, students at Spring Branch Middle School participated in a 'Backwards Learning' activity as part of an introductory lesson on the Holocaust. Teachers Marianne Logan and Susan Holzhauer worked collaboratively with their campus librarian, Brandee Smith, to create a learning environment in which 8th grade students could discover, reflect and connect with history.

Students were able to explore the topic of study using a wide range of materials, and participate in a number of hands-on activities, including a mock reproduction of a prisoner transport train using during World War II.

Backwards Learning is a model of instruction which allows students to investigate an area of study using a wide range of manipulatives, ensuring all types of learners are engaged and able to use a 'best method' of instruction based on personal learning styles.

Backwards Learning naturally aligns itself with a shift in instructional 'ownership' by empowering students to own their learning, allowing for the discovery of topics and ideas that will prepare students to build their knowledge base.

"Backwards learning takes creativity from the teacher, but when implemented correctly can do amazing things for the students," said Ms. Logan.

Just as you would map a road trip to a destination, Backwards Learning focuses on the end, followed by the 'how-to' of getting there (more traditional lesson planning). This type of instruction provides students with a comprehensive understanding of their content area and a clear idea of the desired outcome of the lesson before instruction begins.

The Backwards model challenges some more traditional methods of curriculum planning in that the instruction begins with an end goal, or objective, in mind, followed by lesson planning.

"It is important to change the instructional model because students learn differently now than we did when we were younger. They learn differently than students from 5 to 10 years ago. There is brain research that because of all the technology, their brains are developing differently. We have to find new ways to reach them because they want to work in community and they want to discover things for themselves so it means something to them. If it doesn't have a purpose, they aren't as interested in learning," said Librarian Brandee Smith.

While many student participants knew about Anne Frank and the Nazi concentration camps, many had not been able to put the historical events into a context that connected with them on a personal level, Smith said.

Translating the historical events into a lesson in which students were able to map out the dimensions of a transport rail case and stand within the space brought home the reality of the day's lesson for the students.

"I asked several students what the most impactful part of the activity was and almost all of them said the Cattle Car Station. It gave them perspective about how the Jewish people were transported for days," said Smith. "The biggest thing we are trying to do is build relationships with our students and make them aware of the world around them. I am watching them as they learn and grow, and I'm seeing how what they are learning transfers to other areas of their study."


Post a Comment

Do you have feedback? Tell us.