Friday, September 4, 2015

Why you should bring a yellow horse into your classroom

What business do these items have in a highschool American history classroom?

Toys borrowed from my co-teacher's kids, unbeknownst to them. 
Homegrown tomatoes--could be dangerous to have all these goodies on
parade right before lunch.
Sharing some of the wheat-turned-crackers with
a handful of willing volunteers. 
Some of today's realia. 
American History. Animal toys--specifically a horse, pig, and cow. Wheat crackers. Tomatoes. Corn. Peanuts. Chocolate. Apples. Beans. Sugar. Potatoes. Coffee. Peanuts...Guess what our students were introduced to today?

If you guessed the Columbian Exchange, you are correct!

Realia are mainstays in language learning classrooms--what better way to make learning stick than through multiple modes of getting information? Realia are simply real-life objects brought into the classroom to help strengthen students' connections between the language and object(s) themselves. They are authentic and often tangible objects, although many more are accessible via technology.

Letting students touch things, see them, smell them, and even taste them, helps cement learning far better than if they had listened to us tell about it, or if they had merely read textbooks. (This is why, dear colleagues of mine, I have so many "things" in my classroom--just in case I want to, in essence "show and tell" to help make learning come alive.) Even things you may consider mundane can serve as useful realia--a train ticket with abbreviations, timetables, stops, baggage requirements, refund information, etc. can be quite the attention-grabber and conversation starter for those unaccustomed to a particular culture. Or the etiquette that comes to light when passing around a box of crackers, and the cultural insights/ beliefs it can expose. Realia are fantastic to include in your lessons, but for various reasons, they are neglected or their use is forgotten.

Bringing realia into other classrooms is a must, though. And here are 3 reasons why:
1) It's fun--pulling out a squeaky plastic yellow horse to demonstrate a major point in history makes kids wonder--and yep, laugh, in spite of their oh-so-cool selves.

2) It's memorable--it's multidimensional, often tactile, and sometimes, as my colleague demonstrated, a little bit silly. And we all know laughter helps lower that affective filter, which in delightful turn, makes learning stick.

3) It makes a happy brain. Pulling out an object and letting kids wonder for a minute what the heck you have "that" (whatever it is) for gets those synapses a-firing. Brains are seeking a solution to this puzzle presented in front of them, and then they are satisfied with an ah-ha. Which also makes learning more memorable because they make more connections.

All because of my colleague's yellow plastic horse. Hot diggety. (I'm just thankful he didn't dig up any smallpox...)

What realia can you add to your lesson tomorrow to help make it fun, memorable, and sheer mental manna for your students' brains?

PS--I wanted to send this shout out to my colleague and co-teacher, Mr. P!

1 comment:

  1. Students really like when you bring tangible things into the classroom. When I worked as a teacher in rushessayland, I used such tricks and we cooked even dishes with students.