Social Sundays: 6 Strategies for skipping the lecture

I hear from other teachers that they struggle to get information across to students without lecturing.  Even if they are comfortable lecturing, the teachers (and the students) get bored not too far into the school year.  Students need the background information for discussion, analysis and deeper thinking.  The problem is how to skip the lecture and get the information.  Here are ready-to-use ideas from me and my colleagues on solving the dilemma.

  1. Gallery walks: put the information on display.  Students visit the gallery to learn about the artwork of the Harlem Renaissance, cultural aspects of the Aztecs, or important figures from the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era.  Gallery walks get students up and moving.  I provide a graphic organizer for students to take notes on what they learn.  They still get the information but they are investigators instead of passive recipients.
  2. Scavenger hunts: History Gal loves to "create scavenger hunts for important people or dates in a unit.  It gets students out of their seats and actively learning.  I still cover the same material," she says "but in a way that is a lot more engaging."  I, too, love scavenger hunts for information.  A good graphic organizer with poignant questions can help students in gathering the facts.
  3. The quick and easy newspaper: this is one of my favorite collaborative activities.  Students are given all the background information on a topic such as the Civil Rights Movement.  They work in groups to write articles, opinion pieces, political cartoons, and more for a quickly assembled newspaper.  This is an easy way to orient students to big issues in a new unit. The expectation is not that students will create a polished and well-written newspaper, but they will gather the big ideas.  We use this as a jumping off point to explore topics more deeply during the unit.  I post the newspapers in the room during the unit as a reference point.
  4. Simulations: says Brittany "When I'm trying to get my students highly involved without the use of a lecture, I love to make use of simulations and reenactments. There's nothing better for the 1900's sweatshops than to create a hot, dark room with loud noises and make my students complete a menial task while on their feet for an hour or more. Students love exploring the concept of trench warfare while climbing in and out of the trenches behind our school. And who wouldn't love to be blindsided by the spy in the group during a look back at the French Revolution."
  5. Fact share: "Sometimes, I'll have students read a text and assign them to write down 5 major facts or takeaways," says Mister Harms.  "s they finish writing, students are directed to stand up when done. I will call on one student to share a fact from their paper. That student shares aloud and then calls on another student to share like popcorn sharing. When all of the facts on an individual student's paper have been said, the student can sit down. The class continues to share facts until all students are seated. This is a fun and simple way to gather information while keeping all students engaged."
  6. Stations (yes, even in high school):  Another way to get information across is through stations.  I include informational text at each station along with an activity.  Some activities are kinesthetic, others are visual, and others are verbal.  Every station includes a written aspect that requires students to synthesize what they have read.
These six ideas are only a start.  There are many ways to engage students in active learning.  Try your favorite in your classroom, and let me know how it goes.

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.



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