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First off, I’ll state that I am a firm believer in the philosophy that students should know “how" as opposed to know “what." How do we make sure that students know “how"? My theory is to come up with assignments, lesson plans and rubrics that challenge students to create projects that emulate “real-life" situations.
I am a strong believer in building lessons that will promote learning, yet at the same time allow students to display both their creative side and analytical side. I go through the textbook for my 9th grade Social Studies class and do my best to build assignments that allow students to “live" the chapter. These types of assignments ensure that students know how and thus we as teacher better address state standards.
As an example, when we study Eastern Europe the students travel there via the Internet, as they make travel logs and teach me about the cultural history of famous cities they visit. During our unit on Southwest Asia students go on the Hajj using a great web site I found. Students make all the key stops along the way as the site takes them day-by-day. They get the opportunity to live "in" an annual trip to Mecca, through a virtual experience on the web. Every two or three days in my class we have a role play where students dress in costumes and use props as we “act" out famous events in world history - The Mexican Revolution, The Cold War, The Iranian Hostage Crisis and more.
During these role plays students are engaged, laughing and having fun, which leads into one area that really aids student learning – creating an environment that students have fun in. Since students are having fun in my class and are getting the opportunity to be creative I truly believe they are learning more. I attempt to develop assignments and lesson plans that students have fun with because I think students retain more information when they enjoy the learning experience. Role-plays, computer based research assignments, PowerPoint presentations and web page design assignments make for a nice combination of learning while students enjoy the process.