Parents often focus on limiting screen time at home, monitoring cell phone and tablet use to make sure children spend time on other activities as well. But how does that play out in the classroom? How much is hands-on learning still a foundation of education?
As teachers rely more on technology as a staple to complement the learning process, it’s important to remember the value of classic hands-on activities which involve tangible learning tools.
Pen, paper and ink will continue to be irreplaceable elements of learning – no matter how advanced educational software becomes.
At its worse, putting too much focus on digital can result in an impersonal and passive learning experience. An app on a computer, tablet, or phone teaches certain skills, but makes a poor substitute for other learning experiences.
Creating a Foundation
We spoke with Mrs. Eardley, a high school physics and physical science teacher, about which classic teaching methods she finds valuable. Mrs. Eardley said, “Face to face, one on one contact with the student never goes out of style. I spend most of class walking around, visiting each group and helping where I can.”
Making sure to include a back to basics approach alongside newer digital teaching methods can allow teachers to personalize interactions with students, engage a student’s full attention, appeal to kinesthetic learners, and keep students accountable for classroom participation.
Mrs. Jones, a pre-k to 2nd grade special needs educator, shared her perspective on the classic teaching methods she finds valuable. She told us, “It’s all about the basics and laying a foundation for the students to build on. . . . hands-on activities that allow students to explore concepts gets them engaged, but also gives them opportunities to problem solve and gain a better understanding.”
Mrs. Jones’s comments emphasize the importance of hands-on activities. These are learning experiences that can’t be replicated with a cell phone game or touch screen lesson.
- No matter how advanced technology becomes pen and paper are irreplaceable in the learning environment
- Set aside time with each individual student
- Provide hands on learning exercises for kinesthetic learners
- Focus on the basics! They help create a proper foundation of learning
Timeless Learning Tools
Students use paper and crayons, pencils, pens, and markers, as they progress from coloring and drawing, to improving symbol recognition, and writing. Teachers have been using basic writing tools from day one. Students begin with recognizing letters on the chalkboard and progress to using their own pencils. No. 2 pencils are a required school supply. Students will depend on these for everything from signing their names to writing a letter, or composing an essay.
With scissors, rubber stamps, and puzzles, students are developing their spatial understanding of the world. Cutting, stamping, and putting together puzzles all require concentration and fine motor skills. These fundamental tasks also allow students to express themselves, which inspires an interest art, design and architecture.
Books and worksheets are also timeless learning tools that can increase in complexity as students move from grade to grade. Ms. Jones shared more about how these classic learning tools remain a fundamental part of her classroom.
Mrs. Jones says, “Reading out loud gives children the opportunity to hear a story read fluently, and this sparks a joy of reading. Practicing phonics skills is another block in the foundation. They have to know how letters come together to make words and words come together to make sentences. Practicing sight words builds fluency as well. Asking questions about stories helps children’s comprehension skills.”
Hands-on learning starts with using basic items and progresses as students develop new abilities. From playing with literal learning blocks to using a pen and paper, students can use rudimentary tools to develop complex skills. As they perform new tasks and tackle different levels of activities, they can develop their cognitive function, fine motor skills, ability to focus, spatial skills, and ability to communicate.
“Despite the many obstacles life has thrown their way, my students show up excited and eager to learn each day,” says Mrs. Jones. She, like so many of our kids’ dedicated teachers, is passionate about giving her students the feedback and encouragement they need to grow into strong students, friends and leaders. Rubber stamps are just one of the classic tools Jones uses to keep her kids motivated. Young children are excited by a star or motivational character on their paper!
- Teach without technology, lay down the digital devices to ensure student’s are comfortable putting pen to paper
- Make time for worksheets, puzzles, and stamps to help develop fine motor skills
- Fundamental activities will help your students develop spatial skills and healthy communication