I took a class a few months ago titled “Brain Based Education.” The class was centered on the idea that effective instruction works with the makeup of the brain, utilizing varying methods of teaching to ensure that different parts of the brain are engaged. It also stressed the need for down time for the brain to effectively process and retain the instruction it has received. I’ve come to find out this method not only works for students, but also for teachers.
The past two weeks have shown a bit of a pattern in my actions and feelings about my instruction. Monday- focused preparation. Tuesday- nervous excitement that gets lost in a whirlwind of activity. Wednesday- self doubt. Thursday- return of confidence. What this pattern tells me, is that you cannot replace practice and experience. The more I teach, the better I feel about my performance.
I feel a little guilty that my Tuesday students do not get the benefit of my Wednesday reflection on the lesson. When I write the initial lesson plan, I can’t always see the small tweaks that need to be made to make it work. Upon performance, I think “of course!” For example, both days we performed simple experiments revolving around color. On Tuesday, we completed an introductory exercise, and then talked about how primary colors can be mixed to form other colors. The children stared at me blankly and began to fidget. I wondered if the material was perhaps over their heads. I didn’t expect them to fully grasp the words primary, but I thought they would understand the mixing of colors to make new colors. And they did grasp this- after we got into the experiment, by which time, they were more interested in doing the experiment than listening to a teacher drone on.
Today, I led them over to where the experiment would be performed before I started talking to them about color. I held up the vials of red, blue, and yellow food coloring as I explained primary colors. I worked my discussion into the experiment, and was rewarded when they cried out “orange” when I asked what color red and yellow makes at the end of the session.
I got lucky this week, in that one of my college classes reviewed a few different methods for writing lesson plans. Of course, it is material I had already studied, but the additional look at the information reminded me of a few changes I could make to my lesson to make it more engaging. The timing was perfect, and with two weeks of camp left to go, I hope to make it so my Tuesday students learn just as much as my Thursday students.
That probably sounds like my Tuesday students are getting shortchanged. But I also had to step back and remember that sometimes the lessons preschoolers learn do not come with readily accessible answers such as red+yellow=orange. Some of the most valuable instruction comes in the form of modeling sharing, conflict resolution, and appropriate social behavior. I can confidently say all of my students are learning to think creatively, use their imaginations, and feel more self assured. Those are some important lessons for both little and big people.
I received quite a few reports about kids telling their mommies and daddies about what they did in class, and asking to go back to Miss Kitty Kat’s house again. Today, a boy told me he loved me. I may still be learning the ropes, but at least we’re all enjoying the ride. I hope we can keep that momentum going into next week’s lesson about movement. It’s going to be a fun one!