Monday, October 1, 2012

Students' Imagination as a Lesson Hook

Last Thursday, I taught a Social Studies lesson. The lesson was on the "First Californians." I didn't just want to do a dry read from the text. What I could've done was simply read paragraphs saying that the First Californians (i.e. Indians), lived 15,000 years ago and the various large and small animals that they hunted. I didn't do that. I tried to frame the beginning of the lesson in a way that requires them to provide their perspective.

This is what I told them do: "Imagine that you were born 15,000 years ago. You live in a really cold climate. It's wintery. There's a lot of snow. It's cold. Also, since its 15,000 years ago, there aren't any stores. Tell me what you would do to get food."

I introduced that scenario before we started reading the book. Actually, I didn't even want to bring out the book. I didn't want them to make a connection between the scenario that I provided them with and the section of the textbook that we would read. Or, at least, I didn't want them to make that connection until after we read a section of the chapter together.

The scenario that I gave my students led to a lot of discussion. They imagined that they would make spears from wood with stones on the end of them, that they would use their spears to get fruit from trees, and make traps for smaller animals like rabbits. Some of what they said was pretty creative. Like, I wouldn't imagine digging out a hole to find a rabbit. And, others were actually related to what we were reading (i.e. putting stone points at the end of spears.)

Requiring them to imagine what they would do given the background of the reading is good for a couple reasons. #1 Given that some of their suggestions relate to what is said in the text, the connections between their own thoughts and the text will be that much more meaningful and #2 It's been my experience that most students just love to use their imagination. I couldn't tell you why, but I just know that I've seen a lot of students who like to come up with ideas. Giving them a situation from reading to think about will give them academic situation in which they could use their imagination.

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