The days of teachers who lecture for the entire period and
expect students to recite facts and figures are numbered,
according to experts. Studies show that children learn more
when they actively participate in learning than when they
are taught by the more passive sit and get approach.
I think now I provide more freedom for the students
to discover. Thats important. Thats what they
love. They have fantastic ideas. They like to learn things.
Teacher Terry Ortiz
Good teachers ask questions that help kids think independently
and build their own understanding. Their students can explain
what they learned and, more important, how they learned it
and why the lesson was important. This contrasts sharply with
reciting memorized answers that require little thinking or
Its a little like learning how to change a flat
tire, says Vicki Dimock, a program manager at the Southwest
Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in Austin, Texas.
If you just tell me how to do it, I may not learn on
my own. A better way of teaching me is to be there with me
while I try on my own and coach me through it.
This doesnt mean that the teacher is out of the picture
completelyfar from it. The teacher determines what each
student knows at the beginning of the school year and then
builds on that knowledge by encouraging the student to use
logic, problem solving and reasoning. All the while, the teacher
is assessing whether the student is making progress. If not,
the teacher must try another way of reaching the student.
For all studentsregardless of the level at which they
are achievingusing materials, studying subjects and
creating projects that are relevant is key to learning. Elementary
school teacher Joyce Tate makes science apply to her students
everyday lives by asking them about their
parents jobs. If a students father works in a
restaurant, the class learns about boiling points, heat intensity
and accurate measurement. Tate introduces new subjects to
students first by building on what students are familiar and
The children get really excited, Tate says. A
lot of students feel as if they arent prepared to do
the kind of math and science we do. But when they find out
were using materials that are easily available to themright
out of their kitchensthey dont seem to be intimidated.
When that one child says: Hey, I have got something
that I didnt have and the light bulb goes
off and it all clicks and its like, this is
easy after we have been struggling. Thats
what youre here forto see children finally realize:
I can do this. I worked hard. I had someone who believed
in me and I was able to learn. Teacher Vicki
One Schools Experience
Carencro Middle School, located in a semi-rural, working
class area near Lafayette, Louisiana, is changing the
way teachers teach and students learn. While teachers
still cover the basics concepts in math, reading, science
and writing, they are placing more emphasis on projects
that require students to work in teams.
Carencro staff say students are more enthusiastic about
classes and their work, and teachers collaborate more.
Students use the computers to run spreadsheets, write
presentations and research projects on the Internet
among other activities.
Teachers say students retain more knowledge by working
together. The activities help them understand
the background material. They arent just reading
something, they have to work their way around a concept,
says science teacher Janet Castille.
Castille and other teachers stress that such activities
require teaching the basics before students begin more
complicated projects that require critical thinking
rather than only memorization.
Math teacher Tori Guzzetta believes that children actually
work harder to learn material when they have to explain
it to classmates and their teacher.
Learning is a team sport. It gives more kids
an opportunity to shine. Some kids are good with paper
and pencil tests, but this way of teaching gives everyone
a chance to do a variety of things to show what they
have learned, says Guzzetta.