Teaching the Renaissance: A day with Leonardo Da Vinci



So, I hate to lecture.  Not only does research show that lecture is the least effective teaching method but also lecture is boring.  It is the very rare individual who is a good lecturer.  I can count on one hand the number of high quality lectures I have sat through, and I have a PhD.  So, I have sat through a lot of lectures.  Whether it is a video taped lecture, popular these days in flipped learning, or an in-person lecture, lectures tend to be ineffective.  But, I know why so many teachers use lecture.  Lecture is easier than many other teaching methods, such as creating hands-on activities or simulations.  Still, I try to avoid speaking for more than 5-10 minutes before I get the kids up and moving.

My students and I have been studying the Renaissance, and we have been moving A LOT.  Whether it has been building domes with Brunelleschi or painting like Michelanglo (upside down!), we have a great deal of fun and learn tons.  Recently, we spent a day exploring the concept of the Renaissance man with Leonardo Da Vinci as our example.

Students chose from several stations: herbology, bird sketching, catapult building, and more.  At each activity, they read and responded to information about Leonardo's contributions in this area and then conducted activity themselves.  I was a bit nervous in the planning if I could find at least one activity to appeal to all the students, but it went off without a hitch.  Some students gravitated towards catapult building, while others enjoyed the quiet of bird sketching.  Still, the tactile nature of planting herbs was appealing to other students.  It's a lot of work, no doubt.  So, for those who want to try it out themselves, you can check out the complete lesson plan at my TPT store.   Or just come up with your own ideas.  Bringing history alive engages learners.  And, it isn't just fun.  My students definitely gained more knowledge and could speak more articulately about Leonardo and the concept of the Renaissance man than if I had just lectured about it.

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