A better way

The best practices of the teaching world are rarely ground-breaking.  Usually, I find that the simple things that get overlooked are the most revolutionary in my classroom.  The most recent example of this was when the history department was prepping for our state testing review unit.

In general, I’m always looking for the “best way to teach everything”.  I think we all are as educators.  I was convicted of my hubris when setting my plans for review when my curriculum director asked me why I was reviewing the same way I taught it in the first place.  She gently reminded me that if I had met the student’s needs completely the first time, there wouldn’t be any need to spend time reviewing it.  I really took time to reflect on that and it has pushed me to drastically think outside the box with the way I’m going to review.

The most important question for me when I began rethinking my history review was, “is there a way my students can touch (or at least see) the concepts that we’ve talked about in class before.”  To this end, I’m making it a point to use as many new visuals and ways of looking at things that I can.  What I’ve found as I begin to plan this unit out is the more creative I get with my visuals, the more opportunity I have to spiral the materials into other things in history.  By allowing for this kinds of discussions during review, I’m hoping to see my kids make more connections than they would have in the past.

An example of this is how I’m trying to visually represent each battle of the American Revolution.  I’m trying to not use any words so the students have to process through what battle it might be, and then give them a new perspective on what might have been going on during the war.  Regardless of whether they have all the battles memorized, I’m hoping the will walk away with a good general review of the Revolution and be able to make connections with the flow of wars and how the Continental Army used it’s meager advantages  to force a surrender of the greatest army and navy in the world at that time.

I haven’t completely planned out every lesson, but this basic reset (that you need to try and teach in a new way if it didn’t work the first time) has radically changed my thinking.  It’s almost like even slightly older teachers can still learn new tricks.

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