Thursday, July 29, 2010

So You Keep Saying Authentic Learning...

In my last posts, I have thrown out the term "authentic learning" as if it is the new buzzword.  Well, for me it is!  I am sure others have coined this term before me but this is my definition, my revolution in my classroom, my new mantra for the year.

Authentic learning is what I plan on doing in my room this year.  One can argue that all learning is authentic if only applied to the right situation.  My problem therefore lies within my own style of teaching that seems to lack moments of relatability.  Few are those times when I was able to truthfully tell my students that "this skill you will use one day." Why is that?  We are supposed to be the shapers of the future, right?  Everything we do or say in our classrooms should have a bigger purpose.  I agree that there are certain building blocks that do not lend themselves easily to authentic learning, but how do we go from that type of knowledge to packets, dioramas (I really hate dioramas) and longwinded spelling sorts?

I am about to start my 3rd year in my room and I finally feel like I know a little bit about the curriculum.  I know what the goals are and where the students should be at the end of 4th grade.  That allows me to change the journey and the tools we use to get to that point.  So here is what I propose to myself:  Study the goals and then base learning on getting to that goal, not digging up more worksheets to really make it stick.  So, if you want your students to know the difference between a verb and a noun - send them on a scavenger hunt and tell them to film the nouns and verbs they come across.  Students need to learn how to research - research something that they would be interested in.  You need to teach geometric shapes - find them in your school, count their angles, build your own.  Most of all, make it relevant!

I know there will be days where this will simply not be possible, I will hate those days, but recognize them as a necessary evil.  There are certain curriculum areas that I cannot create authentic learning experiences for; difference between a linking and helping verb - still thinking about that one.  The important thing is that I can still fulfill all of my duties as a teacher but do it in a way that I would have loved to have been taught in, and that I hope my students will remember.  I hope to make it meaningful, to help them connect it to their own lives, to help them see what the purpose is and that school is not boring or something to dread.  Am I a fool?  Probably, but at least I am fool with great aspirations for all.

Do you believe in this type of learning?  Can it be done under our standards and requirements?  Will my students benefit or will my parents revolt?   I will spare no details this fall.


Strongarm said...

I'm pretty sure that I don't know the difference between a linking and a helping verb, but I did pass Grade 4 and never thought of it until now. Good luck on your authentic learning journey. You've got me thinking (and therefore I learned) today.

Rebecca said...

I took the risk and provided this authentic learning experience for my 4th grade students this year and I am never going back! Take a look for ideas or join us! I will be doing this project again in January and the Top Ten can be anything related to your curriculum.


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