Early years and primary school students learn best by experimenting and exploring the environments (Active Learning/ Experiential Learning), and to do so they make full use of their senses (Multi-Sensory Learning). They will always need lots of positive feedback to boost their confidence and to encourage them to explore their interests further (Positive Pedagogy). They also require enough space and freedom to satisfy their individual needs and preferences (Personalised Learning).
Here’s 10 tips how to provide interesting learning opportunities for your students:
1. Creative Experiments
Organise work and play area in your classroom in a way your students can experiment with whatever they find inspiring, e.g. dismantling an old CD player or a radio, constructing a vehicle from spare parts, making new fashion from dress-up costumes, sand & water play space, reading corner, etc. Let your students decide how and when they want to use the play area, and ideally do not ask them to tidy it up right away. Some projects may take longer.
2. Reading Corner
It has to be functional and super exciting, especially now in the era of mobile devices. Ideally the designated reading area would be carpeted to let students read and play on the floor. You may also want to add some bean bags, a small table, and some chairs or a sofa. Make sure the reading space is a private area free from noise and other distractions. Organise the books in boxes or on shelves making sure they are at your students’ eye level, and that your students can access them easily at all times. Every few days display 4-5 books as ‘Books of the Day / Week’ putting them in a visible place to attract your students’ extra attention.
3. Apps and eBooks
Both offer excellent opportunities for Multi-Sensory Learning. There are apps that will foster your students’ Literacy and Numeracy skills, support their Creativity, or help them extend their Knowledge and Understanding of the World. School children are always expected to demonstrate knowledge within limited timeframes, and their skills will be tested regularly. So, to help them reduce the stress and offer some extra practice that is definitely more fun than just regular pen and pencil exercises, consider offering a bunch of apps that combine an element of fun with some form of learning or even testing.
4. Role Plays
A fantastic way to help your students express themselves creatively by pretending they are their favourite movie heroes, book characters, or even real life people. By providing some dress-up costumes, a few everyday objects, some cardboard boxes and coloured pens and pencils should be enough to keep your students happily busy. And besides knights and princesses other popular choices are fire fighters, actors, singers, cooks, vets, shop assistants, doctors or police officers. It’s quite easy to support your students’ learning about the world and jobs by using some objects that reflect the profession of their choice. Then playing becomes more meaningful and provides excellent opportunities for learning social and communication skills.
5. Exploring Nature
Let your students spend more time outdoors whether it’s a local park, the school playground, a nearby beach or woods. Not only your students will have a chance to make new friends but also learn more about the world by playing with natural toys (such as sticks, pebbles, pine cones, sand, mud, water) and sneak-peaking on animals and insects. As they interact with the world around it is always a great lesson on safety and managing risks.
6. Photo Hunt
One of the best ways to support your students’ creativity is to work with photographs. Just grab a camera and explore the world with them. Children are usually more observant than adults and they see beyond the obvious, which may be a great starting point for classroom discussions. You can start with a no-topic session allowing your students to spontaneously capture whatever they find intriguing. Then, you can extend your photo hunts to regular themed outings and add an element of a mission to it.
7. Growing plants
Encourage your students to grow their own plants and observe the growing process. It will be one of the most meaningful experiences related to time. At first it will be just waiting and watching the time passing by without any visible changes. But when a plant finally starts to emerge, it will be easier for your child to notice how much time is needed for the plant to grow through its different stages. Then, as a follow up, it may be interesting to watch a documentary about plants, which often show the growing process in a fast motion.
8. Play tents
They make students of all ages love them, are very flexible and offer endless opportunities for exciting play time. Apart from pure fun, play tents can support the development of your students’ motor skills and creativity, and foster their Knowledge and Understanding of the World. They are also perfect for role plays and play-pretend games in which your students can become medieval knights, pirates or princesses where the tent is their castle, a ship or a fortress.
9. Word Hunt
One of the most effective ways to naturally support early literacy is by helping your students notice words around them. Children sooner or later realise that letters and then words form a useful coding system. Draw your students’ attention to various strangely shaped letters that they see around every day (e.g. in shop windows, on food products or toys, etc.) and simply read them out loud. You may do the same while reading stories to your students. Let them pick funny looking, the biggest, the smallest or the weirdest letters or words they can find on the pages of their favourite books. Turn it into an exciting letter/word hunt and make it a regular activity.
10. Library visits
A very exciting adventure time with plenty of new books to choose from. Modern British libraries are a child-friendly place where your students can feel free to explore the world of books the way they like it. There is usually a comfortable carpeted reading area with soft beanbags, funny cushions, great book displays, and play spaces. Children can socialise and play with other kids, take part in educational workshops, or join story time sessions.
Top 10 Fun Ways to Engage Children into Learning is written by
Vito Matt (MA Edu) – Curriculum Developer and Instructional Designer