It’s the authentic experience in reading, writing, and math (really in all academic disciplines) that truly make a difference in what a child will not only learn, but internalize and use. Exposure in isolation does not have the same impact as the authentic experience. Drilling for hours doesn’t come close to the impact of the quick but authentic hit.
Most teachers and parents are extremely busy and may overlook the quick and easy authentic experience for children. One of the main focuses of this blog is a reminder about all of those wonderful authentic teaching moments out there. Sometimes I’ll go into detail if I think the details are important, but usually I’ll try to just put out a quick note about anything that strikes me as a great authentic learning moment for kids.
This also pairs with my favorite teaching and parenting strategy, the “Model Your Thoughts Out Loud” strategy. By voicing your thoughts out loud for organization, planning, problem solving, etc, you are modeling behavior for children to internalize. This can be talking in front of children to a co-worker, spouse, partner, relative, friend, caregiver, or even out loud to yourself. What is important is that kids hear how and why things happen. Events don’t just magically occur and things don’t magically appear without organization, planning and problem solving. I will post ideas about this as well.
My last main focus will be authentic project ideas for teachers. Again, I will go into detail when the details are important, but often I’ll just relay ideas that come to me, or that I come across.
Whether it is over to the next town to visit relatives, or a vacation involving hotels and restaurants, children of all ages should be involved in the planning of, and preparation for travel.
Children can and should read about destinations before they get there. Younger children can watch videos. This is not only great authentic reading (or pre-reading) practice, it allows children to have expectations and ownership for the trip. Not only does this increase reading skills and knowledge, but improves behavior.
Looking at pictures of grandma and her cane can lead to conversations about how grandma can’t chase young children around her house. Books about the ocean lead to increased knowledge about our oceans, and the required rules to enjoy them safely.
Depending on the age and abilities of your children, they can also be involved in researching and planning a trip. One of the most interesting and fun hotels I stayed in was found by my ten-year-old daughter, researching a place to stay overnight on our way home from a gymnastics meet. (She also knew what my budget was and found a hotel within this range – authentic math practice.)
All children can and should help pack for a trip. Packing lists can be made by parents to be followed by children (pictures work for pre-readers). Not only are lists reading practice (and writing for an older child who can write the list as well) but teach children that there is preparation, organization, and planning for travel. Older children can do most of the packing themselves with some supervision. For teenagers, that’s another story, just be happy if they pack for the right season. (Pick your battles here!)
This is a new twist on an old travel game. For years parents have entertained children on long car rides by having them look for and check off a license plate from all 50 states. As many kids now have access to on line information through phones and tablets, you can add the task of looking up and naming the capital of the state, population, etc. Authentic Math Bonus: additional points for each plate can be added based on larger population, geographical location, etc. The more you add, the busier the kids are, and the more reading they are doing.