A big part of the lesson plan process consists of setting overall learning outcomes and learning objectives. As educators, if we don’t do this we will get lost along the way, which can be interesting, but when we are responsible for taking a room full of students with us, it can also be disastrous!
There are basically 3 main ways to share information so it’s most optimally understood.
- Input or Lecture Style – This is where we give our audience the information verbally.
- Demonstrations or Modeling – This involves showing our participants visually what the concepts look like in action. Modeling and Demos add practical application to theoretical information.
- Experiential Activities – These activities allow our students to have an experience of the content kinaesthetically. This is one of the most powerful ways to learn anything. Experiential Activities are processes or exercises that are participatory in nature. They are designed to enable our participants to better learn our specific objective.
There are two key learning concepts to understand if we want to plan our lessons effectively and reach all of our students.
- Learning Styles
- Multiple Intelligence
Each of us is born with and develops unique preferences regarding how we take in and process information. These are called ‘learning styles’. Learning Styles can be defined as the way people prefer to concentrate on, store and remember new and/or difficult information. This is at a conscious or unconscious level.
There are 3 main categories of learning styles. We have Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic. Most of us are able to take in and process information in all three ways, but we usually find that each of us has a primary preference. And again, this preference is either conscious or unconscious . . . or a little bit of both.
We each have genetic aptitude for certain information, or ‘natural intelligences’ with regards to different areas of learning. What this means is that we are each born naturally better or more gifted at some activities, and less so at others. There are now 9 Intelligences that have been identified in humans by leading Harvard Learning Theorist, Dr. Howard Gardner. We are all born with capacities in all 9 intelligences, but we tend to be more naturally gifted in some more than others. The good news is, we can use our stronger intelligences to compensate for or enhance our weaker ones.
Therefore what used to be the question in the minds of the teachers in the past was, “How smart are you?” Now, the most evolved teachers don’t ask that question, instead we ask, “HOW are you smart?”
Below is the list for the 9 ways that our students will be SMART!
- Verbal/Linguistic or ‘Word Smart’
- Logical/Mathematical or ‘Math Smart’
- Visual/Spatial or ‘Art Smart’
- Bodily/Kinaesthetic or ‘Body Smart’
- Musical/Rhythmic or ‘Music Smart’
- Interpersonal or ‘People Smart
- Intrapersonal or ‘Self Smart’
- Naturalist or ‘Nature Smart’
- Existential or ‘God Smart’
Now that we have an understanding of learning styles or how our students prefer to take in information, and Multiple Intelligences, or the natural aptitudes that will exist in our students, let’s talk about how to facilitate experiential activities effectively so all learning styles, and all Multiple Intelligences are included.
Experiential activities can take a number of forms. These forms are Solo exercises, Partner exercises, and Group exercises. Experiential activities can be facilitated inside or outside, live in person, or virtually. When choosing what kind of activity to lead, keep the overall learning outcome of your program in mind, as well as the learning objective.
On that note, let’s go through some basics on facilitating safe, fun and powerful experiential activities. However first, I would like to go over the 7 errors inexperience leaders make when trying to facilitate experiential activities.
There errors can be very detrimental to expertise and credibility, and can cause a lot of unwanted negative emotions in our students. They can also unintentionally put the emotional, mental and physical safety of our students at risk!
Many educational leaders know we need to use activities to keep the learning active and engaging. However, we mistakenly include activities that may be participatory in nature, but lack the connection to the overall learning outcome or objective.
Here are some questions to ask ourselves before choosing to include an experiential activity:
- Does the activity help the students move toward obtaining the behavioral objectives of the lesson?
- Is it related to the content?
- Can the participants see, feel the link?
The activity is no good if the link is obviously only to us. It must be obvious to our learners as well!
It is easy to under-estimate how much time it will take to properly set up, facilitate, trouble-shoot and debrief an activity. The main question to ask ourselves so we don’t get ourselves into a time crunch is: Is there enough time to properly facilitate the activity?
By Logistics, we mean all the little details necessary for the activity to run smoothly. Listed below are just a view items for concern.
- Space – Make sure there is enough room to run the activity.
- Materials – Be sure you have properly thought out and prepared all materials that might be needed for the activity.
- People – There will often be uneven groups, people with no partners, folks coming late and messing up your original group numbers.
Very often educators choose to facilitate activities that are either unnecessarily complex or activities that are not necessarily complex but the educator has not practiced explaining the instructions for the activity, and so explains it in a very confusing manner. This leads several questions, lots of confusion, and valuable minutes being eaten up!
Command mode refers to the energy it takes to direct a group of students into and out of an activity in an efficient manner. The best way that I have found to handle a group of students is to ask for their cooperation before we explain the exercise. Set the lesson up for how we will be directing them and ask for their agreement to follow our lead.
Timing of Giving Instructions
For activities that require moving around our classroom, first explain the activity. We will then demonstrate or model how the activity will go so they can see it. When we are sure that everyone understands what will happen and what is required on their part, then we can ask our students to move, get materials, get into groups etc.
Risk management is all about managing risk. It’s about facilitating activities that keep our students safe physically and emotionally.
Students can and will experience all kinds of growth and break-throughs in our classrooms. Lending some attention to how to best support them before, during, and especially after deep exercises is vital. Some basic things to keep in mind to guard the emotional safety of our students are as follows:
- Let students know what they could feel or experience prior to the exercise. Prepare them!
- Allow our students the freedom to experience the activity through their own intelligence.
Dr. Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences utilizes aspects of cognitive and developmental psychology, anthropology and sociology to explain the human intellect. Based on his research (which included brain research, interviews with stroke victims, child and adult prodigies, and even individuals with autism), Gardner established criteria for identifying 9 separate human intelligences.
What is exciting about Dr. Gardner is that his theories challenge traditional, narrower views of intelligence. I believe that it brought scientific backing to the idea that ALL human beings are gifted, and all people are smart in their own unique way.
Here are some of the basic ideas of Multiple Intelligence Theory:
- All human beings possess all 9 intelligences in varying degrees, but each individual has a different intelligence profile
- Education and learning can be improved by the assessment of a student’s intelligence profile and by designing activities accordingly.
- Each of the 9 intelligence capacities occupies a different area of the brain.
- Each of the 9 intelligences may operate in combination or independently from one another.
- Also, these 9 intelligences may be a defining characteristic of the human species.
We as educators always known that students had different strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, but Gardner’s research was able to explain why and provide direction as to how to improve a student’s ability in any given intelligence.
Now we will look into understanding each of the 9 Multiple Intelligences and how we can use these to enhance the educational process.
- Verbal/Linguistic or Word Smart – This intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to understand and manipulate words and language(s). Everyone is thought to possess this intelligence at some level. It includes reading, writing, speaking, and other forms of verbal and written communication. There are many ways to support our Word Smart students.
- Encourage students to take notes and keep journals throughout their school year.
- Play word games with each other.
- Verbally review information with one another.
- Encourage discussion of concepts, and dialogue about their experience.
- Logical/Mathematical or Math Smart – This intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to do things with data and numbers. They love to collect it, organize it, analyze and interpret it, and then make conclusions and predictions based on it. Individuals strong in this intelligence see patterns and relationships very easily. We can strengthen and speak to our Math Smart students when we:
- Encourage their critical-thinking activities.
- Give them problems to solve.
- Have them contemplate information like a puzzle and offer their conclusions and solutions.
- Do cognitive stretching exercises like logic puzzles that help them understand and further integrate the information we are sharing.
- Visual/Spatial or Art Smart – This intelligence refers to the ability to form and manipulate a mental model. Individuals with strength in this area depend on visual thinking and are very imaginative. We can foster and leverage this intelligence by utilizing:
- Charts, graphs, diagrams, graphic organizers, videotapes, color, art activities, doodling, microscopes and computer graphics software.
- We can also encourage our students to draw pictures of what they are learning.
Bodily/Kinaesthetic or Body Smart – This intelligence refers to people who process information through the sensations they feel in their bodies. We can encourage growth in this area of intelligence by:
- Encouraging touching, feeling, movement, improvisation.
- “Hands-on” activities and movement games.
- Suggesting students squirm, stretch, wiggle and move as they learn.
- Taking them through facial expressions and physical relaxation exercises during our segments of instruction.
- Naturalistic Intelligence – This intelligence is often seen in someone who finds it easy to recognize and classify plants, animals, and minerals. We can best factor this intelligence by:
- Emphasizing relationships, and through classification activities.
- Encouraging our students to study relationships between concepts and put them in activities that get them looking for patterns and order.
- Using compare and contrast method of presenting information.
- Have students brainstorm examples and non-examples of concepts and principles.
- Musical intelligence – This intelligence refers to the ability to understand, create, and interpret musical pitches, timbre, rhythm, and tones and the capability to compose music. We can encourage the learning of these individuals in our classrooms by:
- Playing music.
- Assigning tasks that involve having our students create lyrics and raps to remember the material we are sharing.
- Having our students keep a beat or clap in time.
- Interpersonal or People Smart – This intelligence refers to people that have good communication and interaction skills, and a high ability to show empathy towards the feelings of others. We can support the learning of this intelligence by designing lessons that include:
- Group work and cooperative learning activities.
- Partner activities.
- Small group challenges.
Intrapersonal or Self Smart – This intelligence refers to people that have the ability to know oneself. To leverage and include these students we can:
- Assign reflective activities, such as journaling.
- Existential Intelligence or Life/God – This intelligence encompasses the ability to pose and ponder questions regarding existence, including life and death. This type of intelligence involves a curiosity about questions relating to human existence. It is important for us to encourage our students to never stop asking questions and to provide them help in seeking the answers, whether they are found in a book or by having a discussion.
For now, to close this document, let’s review the 5 elements of presence at an instructor or leader. To summarize, the 5 elements of presence are:
- Body Language
Whether we like it or not, these 5 elements of will combine in us to create a certain level or magnitude of presence and will determine how mesmerizing we can be!
Below is a list of skills people need to acquire to compete in the next 5 years.
- Transitionists – Those who can help make a transition.
- Expansionists – A talent for adapting along with a growing environment.
- Maximizers – An ability to maximize processes, situations, and opportunities.
- Optimizers – The skill and persistence to tweak variables until it produces better results.
- Inflectionists – Finding critical inflection points in a system will become a much-prized skill.
- Dismantlers – Every industry will eventually end, and this requires talented people who know how to scale things back in an orderly fashion.
- Feedback Loopers – Those who can devise the best possible feedback loops.
- Backlashers – Ever – new technology will have its detractors, and each backlash will require a response.
- Last Millers – Techonologies commonly reach a point of diminishing returns as they attempt to extend their full capacity to the end user. People with the ability to mastermind these solutions will be in hot demand.
- Contexualists – In between the application and the big picture lays the operational context for every new technology.
- Ethicists – There will be an ever-growing demand for people who can ask the tough question and standards to apply moral decency to some increasingly complex situations.
- Theorists – Every new product, service, and industry begins with a theory.
- Legacists – Those who are passionate and skilled with leaving a legacy.
“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.”