This post is part of this year’s Walk This Way series, designed to share The Walking Classroom experiences of teachers and students across the United States. It provides a glimpse into Caitlin Watson’s class.
Every year I have the same talk with my students when we are taking notes or answering questions on a reading test. I tell them that before we read, we brainstorm what we know about the topic. We usually come up with a question or preview the questions.
Teflon or Velcro?
The reason for this approach? Our brains can be like Teflon or they can be like Velcro. When we don’t have any background knowledge or we don’t know what we are looking for when we are reading, our brains are like Teflon. The information goes on for a minute and slides right off.
But, if we have knowledge about a topic or we know what information we are looking for when we read, our brains become like Velcro. Each fact, each key word becomes a loop that catches that information until we can use it later. It has been my experience so far that The Walking Classroom is a great way to create that Velcro brain . . . and help concepts stick!
A specific example comes from our Revolutionary War unit in reading last year. We were deep in battle not only in the book we were reading, but in the classroom as well.
It was test prep season (y’all know how that feels!) and the weight and stress of this time of year was wearing on all of us. The topic was interesting, the kids really liked it, but they were having trouble understanding a lot of the characters’ decisions and even some of the nonfiction because they were referencing events, people, and acts about which my students had no clue.
Turning to The Walking Classroom
The kids were also sick to death of sitting, answering questions, and writing practice essays all day, so I went to The Walking Classroom Teacher Guide to see what I could find. There were twelve podcasts covering Revolutionary War topics! I used them to get us moving and turn those Teflon brains into Velcro.
Boy, did they work! Now, when we read, they were making all sorts of connections to concepts they learned in The Walking Classroom instead of just letting that information pass them by. Those blank stares I had seen getting before developed into excited turn and talks because the students had the knowledge, confidence, and energy to dig deep and think broadly about the topic!
Now Things Stick!
It doesn’t matter if you use the podcasts before, after, or during the lesson to create this Velcro. This approach works no matter where you are in the learning process for the particular topic. I have even stopped in the middle of a lesson and said, “Okay, time to revisit. We’re having a hard time with this, so let’s go walk and see if our WalkKits have something that can help us!”
Not only does this approach remove the students from the frustration of struggling with a particular concept, but it also allows them to gather more knowledge in a way that is relaxing and fun for them.
I hope you have as much fun using The Walking Classroom to help concoct that Velcro brain as I have!
Fourth Grade Teacher
Diamond View Elementary