Creating Activity Based Lessons

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The primary goal of this course is to help teachers and instructors explore the process of creating Activity-Based lesson plans in a Social Studies classroom. Initially, we must consider the basics:

- What is the purpose of an activity-based approach to social studies?

- What are the components of an activity-based lesson plan?

- How might teachers organize social-studies activities?

- How can teachers strengthen student understanding?

Needs Assessment

Instructional Problem:

Social studies is my passion. When I wake up, I consider the impact of history on current events as I eat my cereal and watch the news. When I drive to work, I think of the evolution of transportation and its revolutionary effects on society. When I go to my favorite restaurant, I think of the immigrant tradition that brought the cuisine to the United States. I enjoy reading an array of books about social studies: history, economics, geography. Given a spare moment to actually sit and watch some television, I tend to gravitate toward documentaries that never cease to fascinate me. In short, social studies is important to me.

However, I am also realistic. I know that many of my students do not have the same natural inclination towards social studies thought. They have an array of other classes consuming their time, not to mention important things like family, friends, boyfriends, jobs, shopping, music, movies,etc., on their minds. The obvious deduction, my students have not considered our last lesson together since they left my classroom.

The idea of this mini-lesson is simple, to give teachers a structure and guide for creating lessons that engage the student in the learning. With no assumptions, these activity-based lessons will not require the student having done his or her homework. Instead, it provides a learning experience that will engage the student regardless of their completion of homework. The goal, creating a classroom environment in which students are active participants in their own learning. Instead of a teacher lecturing historical themes and ideas, the students will act as the historians and social scientists exploring that theme and idea with the aid of carefully crafted activities that scaffold understanding. By nurturing this curiosity in the classroom, hopefully, it will show itself in the students curiosity outside of the classroom.

What is to be Learned:

In order to create effective activity-based lessons, we must first explore exactly what activity-based lessons are and their implications in a classroom. Once we have explored the definition and implications of an activity based lesson, we need to understand the general structure of the lesson and how to implement the lesson appropriately in the classroom. Teachers and instructors will learn step by step approaching to creating an activity based lesson plan that incorporates student centered learning, primary/secondary source analysis that meets students at their reading ability, and broadly defined goals and objectives that allow for the optimal amount of freedom and exploration while still providing a structure. Lastly, we will look at how teachers can reinforce the themes and topics covered in the activities and gauge when activity-based lessons are appropriate.

Exploring the Instructional Problem and Solution:

Teachers must constantly make choices while they teach. Flexibility is key while engaging students in activity based learning. Teachers will come to underhand that the same goals and objectives can be met in different ways. If something does not initially capture the interest of the students, if they are unable to comprehend the passage, it is time to try another approach. Meeting the students where they are, being prepared for multiple situations and outcomes, and a keen sense of humor and flexibility are key.

Goals of this Mini-Course:

The ultimate goal of this mini-course is for teachers and instructors to understand the process of creating and successfully initiating an activity-based lesson plan. In the process, learners will come to understand the general benefits and drawbacks of such lessons.

Analysis of the Learner and Content

This course would be geared towards educators and instructors of all subjects. Although the mini-course will focus on a social studies classroom,the process and sequence of creating activity based lessons can be applied across many subject matters and contents. This course will be most helpful for instructors teaching in a secondary education setting, 7th through 12th grade. In addition to teachers, this mini-course can also be used by professional adults working with children and teenagers in a social studies setting (i.e. museum personnel and tour guides).

Majority of the mentioned target participants will have college degrees or higher. The required knowledge and skills that participants should have prior to participation in this mini-course are a deep knowledge understanding of their content, basic instruction and teaching skills, ability to create and implement lesson plans, classroom and general group management skills, and other basic instructional skills.

The participants of this mini-course will participate because there are interested in creating engaging activity based lessons that encourage student thinking and curiosity.

Performance Objectives

Upon the completion of this mini-course, learners will be able to:

- Understand the importance of activity based lessons and student engagement in learning.

- Demonstrate skill in creating the components of activity based lessons.

- Design an array of student centered activities.

- Understand the implications activity based lessons have on student understanding.

- Predict when activity based lessons are appropriate in the classroom.

Task Analysis

Unit One: What is the purpose of activity-based lessons?

Unit Two: How do teachers create social studies based activities?

Unit Three: How do teachers implement activity based lessons?

Unite Four: How can teachers enhance student understanding?

Curriculum Map

References and Resources