The Secret to Making Learning Activities More Effective for Preschool & Elementary Children

Marvae EikanasTeaching

One of my favorite aspects of teaching is interacting with children during the Learning Activities portion of class time. Chatting with kids as they do what they do best – explore, pretend, and reveal who they really are. The funny things they say, and the secrets they chose to share, all bring a big smile to my face! This relaxed way of interacting bonds and enlightens; so often this is where the light bulb moments happen if you using this time effectively.

The Learning Activities portion of your classroom experience can easily turn into “babysitting” or “playtime without a purpose” if you do not approach it with intention. Remembering just how ripe children are to get to know Jesus and how short your class time is will hopefully prompt you to get more purposeful about how you use Learning Activities in the classroom.

Here are a few tips to making Learning Activities more effective in your classroom:

For Preschoolers…

1. How many Learning Activities do I need?

The truth is everyone is different. We don’t all enjoy the same kinds of activities. Having options allows children to pick the activities that are most meaningful to them. Let’s be real… it is hard to learn when you are forced to do something you don’t want to do. Offering a minimum of three activities gives children choices. If you have a particularly large group more than three choices is best. You can expand the number or Learning Activities by using two different kinds of blocks or offering the exact same activity in more than one location.

Having a variety of activities also accommodates children with shorter attention spans allowing them to move on when they are ready without being disruptive.

Providing several Learning Activities makes it possible to offer experiences that will interest boys or girls, as well as the introvert or the extrovert.

2. How do I decide what Learning Activities to offer?

Make sure your Learning Activities reinforce the lesson. Communicating the kinds of conversations you would like to have at each Learning Activity with your helpers makes it possible for them to be more intentional as well. These conversations might seem minor, but are actually invaluable. They give you an opportunity to gauge understanding, explain unfamiliar words or ideas, and give you the chance to help children apply concepts to their lives. If you aren’t able to communicate with your helper beforehand, consider having an index card with that information on it at each Learning Activity or reference sheet your helpers can read when they arrive.

3. Did you know… the Creative Hands ideas can be a Learning Activity option?

While parents often want their children to make something in class, not all kids actually enjoy that process. When the Creative Hands project is an option, children have the choice to create or not to create. Kids will naturally gravitate towards the options that will be most meaningful to them.

4. What’s the benefit to beginning and ending with Learning Activities?

Transition times – those can be can be hectic times. Learning Activities make it easy for children to jump in and participate or exit without disrupting everyone else. And learning can be happening in spite of the chaos! Begin and end your time together with Learning Activities.

For Elementary-Age…

1. How do I decide what Learning Activities to offer?

The first step in planning your lesson is zeroing in on the main point you want to communicate with your elementary-age children. Then determine the activities that will best reinforce that point and will peak your unique group of children’s interest and be age appropriate.

2. How do I tie the Learning Activities to the lesson?

It is vital that you debrief the Learning Activities well! If you play a game, do an experiment, or if you build something together, take the time to talk about how the activity relates to the lesson. Don’t just assume that the kids caught your point. This debrief time is a crucial time for kids. It gets them thinking things through and gives them opportunity to ask questions. Be sure not to dominate the conversation – ask lots of open ended questions, including those in the Digging Deeper portion of your lesson.

3. Do elementary children need options?

The younger your group is, the more often you will want to provide choices. Half the class can play a game while the other half builds something. Let’s face it – preschoolers aren’t the only ones that enjoy choices! You might even let the class decide which Learning Activity they would like to do together.

Don’t forget, the Creative Hands ideas can also be a Learning Activity option.

Learning Activities set the stage for those light bulb moments – the moment true learning takes place!

How can you make your Learning Activities more effective?

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