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Teaching children well

Teaching children well

Educators find, and share, new strategies to inspire students and make learning more exciting.

Sunday was World Teachers’ Daya time to honor individuals who devote themselves to creating life-long learners and preparing our next generation for success in school and life. And, these days, they have a variety of new tools and strategies with which to achieve those goals.

For example, educators are using new, creative methodologies—such as Whole Brain Teaching and project-based learning—which are being taught and shared, teacher-to-teacher.

Whole Brain Teaching is a research-based, interactive form of instruction that delivers information to students in small doses. Kids practice what they learned with their classmates, using hand gestures to help remember specific concepts. And, while the students teach each other, the teacher walks around the room to see who understands the lesson and who needs more instruction. The process is viewed as more engaging for students.  

“Authentic learning strategies are so important in the classroom because students need to be able to connect with the real world and know the purpose behind why they are learning,” says Christine Olmstead, Instructional Services Division administrator at the Orange County Office of Education.  

“When (students) understand how it impacts their greater world, it makes it more realistic for them and it makes school exciting.” 

Linda Horist, a second-grade teacher at Nohl Canyon Elementary in Anaheim and 2014 Orange County Teacher of the Year finalist, has embraced Whole Brain Teaching. The results have been positive. 

“I’ve been doing it in my classroom for about three years,” Horist says. “We have larger numbers of students, and it’s difficult to keep them engaged because they’re at all different levels. For the kids, I compare it to a computer game in real life. They’re responding, they’re gesturing and they’re interacting with their fellow students.”

Whole Brain Teaching involves giving visual reinforcement, such as gestures, while the teacher provides a lesson. Horist says it works for students of all learning styles and abilities. 

“I gesture as I describe a definition, such as what is a synonym,” she explains. “Then I say ‘mirror’ and they mirror what I’ve taught them. Then they teach their neighbor. I observe and can see who got the concept, who didn’t, and who needs a little more help.” 

She says the strategy has worked, in part because it gets even reticent students involved and on pace with their peers.

“We’re just on a cusp of a lot of change in our industry,” Horist says. “These new teaching strategies get kids to think for themselves instead of rote learning. And (they) provide teachers more flexibility and the opportunity to infuse a lot more of our own personality because it’s not scripted.”

She adds, “I would encourage all educators to take a risk and try something new. We’ll have more excited learners, and more excited teachers. Give yourself the latitude to make mistakes and have fun.”

To learn more about the education landscape in Orange County and how you can make a difference, visit ConnectOC.org.
Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at shoss@oc-cf.org

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