- Middle School
Think back to your time in school. Perhaps you have memories of sitting in a massive lecture hall, listening and taking notes as your professor went on for an hour about VooDoo Economics (think Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). If you zoned out for even a brief minute you might have missed something the professor said that was now missing from your notes. Hopefully, it was not something you needed for that midterm exam or next unit test. Thankfully, with the adaptation of 1:1 devices, teachers can now reach all students more effectively when it comes to content delivery.
Dive Deeper with Blended Learning
Let me introduce the concept of Blended Learning and how it helps my students dive deeper into what we are learning. There are many different models of Blended Learning, but the basic idea is for students to interact with material online in the form of a video, podcast, reading, etc. and then spend time in class applying what they learned online to various learning outcomes.
For each of my social studies classes, we start by using an inquiry-based learning model called Explore, Flip, Apply.
In this model, we begin by examining and investigating the concepts we are about to cover. For example, when we are learning about the geography of Africa, students look at a set of images from the various regions of Africa, write down what they see, and explain to a partner what they think is going on in the images. Then as a class, we have a discussion based on questions or thoughts they have about the images.
For homework, they are assigned a vodcast (a video podcast) that addresses the material we will explore the next day in class. The homework portion is called the Flipped Classroom, which flips the traditional relationship between class time and homework. Instead of lecturing during class, that time is used for exploration of the topics and projects that further their understanding of the concepts and topics.
Finally, it’s time to apply what they’ve learned so far. I use station rotations, also known as centers, where students rotate through various activities that help further their understanding of the material. They might investigate a series of primary sources to see how they fit into what we are learning or spend time on portions of a project that are broken up into various smaller elements.
Here are two examples my students are currently working on. In fifth grade, we are learning about the early West and East African Kingdoms. In our exploration stage, students read four different primary sources from first-hand accounts of what these early civilizations were like. Then students watched a vodcast explaining all the early civilizations of Africa. Once they were done, they were paired up and began researching one of those civilizations. They collaborated to create a paper slide video to share the story of a specific civilization.
In sixth grade, we began our unit on the Ancient Greek government and civilizations by creating fictional bands based on three different decision processes. I adapted this activity from a fellow social studies teacher in Illinois who used something similar. Throughout three rounds, students had to make decisions based on the cards they had. They would either make a decision like a tyranny (only one person allowed to make the decision), like an oligarchy (just a few people make the decisions) or like a democracy (where all the students must have a say). Students then read about ancient Athens and Sparta in class and furthered their understanding through small group discussions. The class was then split into two sides, Athens and Sparta, which will debate each other based on whether or not they meet Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They are collaborating to gather information, create arguments, and defend their stance. This will help them establish a stronger understanding of concepts that will be used for our year-end project.
Through Blended Learning, students are able to make more meaning of the content we are learning and have a better understanding of those concepts. Hands-on lessons allow for plenty of discussion and interaction, as well as collaboration.
About the Author
5/6 Social Studies Teacher