Rather than trying to teach your students facts, try teaching them how to LEARN! Our brains learn much better and retain more when we are forced to figure out the answer for ourselves. Have your students research important questions for your unit of study and then teach their information to the rest of the class. The Learning Pyramid shows that 90% of learning is retained when done in direct application or when teaching others. Wow! What a statement that makes! When we teach our students how to learn, to be able to find information for themselves, we are in effect teaching them how to be lifelong learners.
Does this mean that as teachers we sit back and do nothing? Of course not! We are the facilitators in this process. Our students need to be taught HOW to ask the right questions and HOW to find the information. They also need to be taught how to process and use that same information. We must teach about sources of information. We must teach how to take notes from information we read. We must teach how to put that information into an organized presentation, and show our students how to either apply or teach it to others!
Start by teaching your students the basics:
1)What kind of question do I ask?
2)Where do I go to find the information? (primary & secondary sources)
3)How do I pull out the most important and relevant information to answer my question?
4)How do I organize this information?
5)How can I apply this information in a meaningful way?
6)How can I best teach others this information?
Once you've taught your students these important skills, then utilize them each six weeks in a project related to your unit of study. Let your students discover the knowledge for themselves and share their findings with others. I think you'll find you have a classroom full of motivated and excited students who want to learn!
I always start out with a simple project such as answering one question in one or two paragraphs with an explanation, and get more involved from there. I may have students do a simple presentation and visual. Pop-up books are fun for students to make and do not take up much class time to create when only one page.
Don't forget about experiments, learning centers, scavenger hunts, web quests, and other simple projects that may not be as time-consuming. Even finding the answer to a simple question promotes active learning on the part of a student. No child is too young or too old to learn these skills!
These are some questions I ask myself when I reflect about discovery learning in my classroom:
Do I encourage my students to be active learners, seeking information for themselves? How do I make this happen? Are my lessons teacher centered (you do most of the thinking and work) or student centered (students do most of the thinking and work)? Am I mostly at the lecturn, giving notes and facts, or do I ask my students questions and require them to find the information to back up their answers? When I think about my upcoming lessons, I ask myself - how can I incorporate a way for students to discover the knowledge for themselves?