Show and Tell
Do you remember the good old days of show and tell, the excitement of some unknown object from a friend’s house? Some things were true treasures that could not be touched. My favorite ones were those the student would allow to be passed around so that we could all hold and examine whatever it was. I can still remember a sparkly geode with its spiky crystals inside, a doll from Mexico with hand-woven clothes, and a smooth pink sea shell from a faraway beach. Those things made whatever story came with them more real and interesting.
The same can be said for our classrooms. The more we can show our students, the better. There are many videos and images available that are like the precious item that cannot be passed around. You can look, and that is memorable. It provides a mental picture, a place to hang words and ideas. In a year when we have had to rely on screens to convey many things—including our own teaching—a video or digital image becomes less special. It is helpful but not like experiencing something in person.
Our students who struggle often think and learn better in the three-dimensional world. They also tend to remain in the concrete operational stage of cognitive development for longer than their peers. Video screens are more enticing than flat pages filled with words, but active learning with real objects is even better. When students can touch, feel, and manipulate objects, memories form more easily and are recalled more vividly.
As you attempt to help struggling learners in your classroom (even those in middle school), look for ways to provide a healthy dose of real life. Build or recreate with real objects like dough, Legos®, or pipe cleaners. Bring in, or have students bring in, objects from home that relate to the topics you study. Get up and reenact important events or stories. Use objects to recreate situations in word problems and prompt writing projects. As much as possible, give your students experiences, not just information.
As you close out this extraordinary school year and look forward to more in- person experiences for yourselves, be mindful of your students who struggle. Look for objects that can help you bring real life back into your classroom. Challenge yourself to find one new way to have show and tell be a part of a lesson. Your students will thank you.