Authentically Teaching All Subjects

I had an idea to refine my blog by adding more topics to my menu, breaking down my ideas into reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. As I started to look at my entries, I realized that if I did this I would be moving away from exactly what I am trying to promote – teaching authentically.

If you are teaching authentically, then you are not teaching in isolation. If you are authentically teaching math, it should involve research/reading. If you are authentically teaching reading, it should involve social studies, science, and math. Writing should be authentically incorporated into every subject, it should not be an exercise unto itself.

So I am going to leave all of my ideas for authentic projects under one topic. It really shouldn’t make it more difficult to find an idea, as the whole point of my blog is to give you lots of ideas to think about and see if one resonates for you and your students. Need to teach area – design a dream house, measure for carpet, plan a new park, figure out how many chocolate chip cookies can fit on a cookie sheet… (And send me the recipe please – still looking for a great chocolate chip cookie recipe!)

Authentic Teaching – Listening to Students

As I have stated many times, I am passionate about Authentic Learning.  It is the reason I started my blog after I retired.  I was ready to stop teaching, but not ready to leave education and something I believe in with all my heart and soul.

I also love photography, and realized that my photos were giving me lots of project ideas.  If you stop, look around, and smell the roses, you will be amazed and what you see. 

But for a project to be authentic you need to listen, really listen, to your students.  What are they thinking about, what do they want to know, what are they interested in.  Then you create your driving question, and start to frame your authentic project with experiences that require that your content covers your curriculum objectives.

Authentic teaching requires planning, but that planning needs to revolve and change based on what your students are interested in. Plan a lesson, watch your student engagement, listen to their interests and questions, and change course if necessary.

Teaching authentically involves giving yourself that time to reflect and smell those roses. It is so important to good teaching and much more pleasant way to go through life!

Teaching Authentically On Line

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Since March we have been meeting on Zoom with our granddaughter every day, trying to cover kindergarten concepts.  Working with a five-year-old on Zoom is definitely not the easiest way to teach.  I have no idea how teachers are managing to work with several at the same time.

We immediately started to work with her on projects, but struggled with maintaining her interest and attention through several lessons, until it hit me like a lightening bolt to practice what I preach and teach authentically.  This did not mean to let her run away with the lesson, it meant to incorporate her passions into what I wanted to accomplish academically.

Her current passions are Unicorns, Alicorns, and Mermalicorns –  that is a Mermaid-Unicorn with wings, in case you didn’t know that.  (In one of our first Zoom session, I mentioned that Unicorns were not real.  I believe I will be forgiven for that comment in about a century or so.)

Once we started incorporating her love of unicorns into our lessons, they took off.  We were able to share facts we felt were important, practice spelling, and counting, and just plain have fun working with her.  She introduced new aspects to our authentic lessons that expanded what we were able to accomplish. She even informed us during a recent lesson, that mermaids are pretend, but we should still put one in our drawing we were making about what lived in the ocean.  (I am not touching the unicorn reality subject again, I can be taught!)

At the end of a recent lesson, she announced that she wanted to talk about cameras (this was a reference to the camera that took a photo of her and her baby brother with Santa last December).  We had a wonderful authentic conversation about cameras, practiced more spelling, did some math (photo size, age of cameras of the past), and drew pictures of cameras.  (My picture was judged to be the best by her, out of pity for me, I have zero drawing skills.)

In hindsight, I am stunned that I did not start out immediately by working with her authentically, using her interests to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish with her.  After all, I blog about this every week, and it is my passion.  But throwing Zoom into the mix threw me.  I will definitely admit it is not as easy as teaching in person.  Being authentic is definitely harder when you are not authentically there.  But going authentic has changed the impact and productivity of our lessons in a 100% positive way.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy!

Teaching Authentically at Home

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I know many (most) of the children we educate are currently learning at home.  Projects work beautifully in the home.  But don’t forget that authentic learning doesn’t need to be a big involved project.  Every day activities are great times for authentic teaching and learning.  Cooking is full of reading and math.  (I still can’t do math problems unless I picture cooking and/or food in my head!)  Planning and implementing a schedule for the day.  Writing a grocery list.  Estimating the cost of everything in the grocery cart. (My grandmother used to say, “Just count the items in the cart and multiply by 50¢.” Great authentic lesson in inflation!)

I joke that I was the laziest teacher and parent on the planet.  If the kids could do something, why should I do it.  The truth of the matter is I was doing some really good teaching and parenting, if I say so myself.  Honestly, it is more work to have your kids do something. As an adult I could do it neater and faster.  If your child is writing a grocery list and you are having to help prompt or spell, it takes twice as long.  But if you write the list you are missing an authentic learning moment – on so many levels!

I hope everyone is safe and well.

Best to All,  Ellie