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Experiential Exercise A short, memorable experience helps students grasp social studies concepts.

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Presentation on theme: "Experiential Exercise A short, memorable experience helps students grasp social studies concepts."— Presentation transcript:

1 Experiential Exercise A short, memorable experience helps students grasp social studies concepts.

2 What is an Experiential Exercise? It is the use of movement and then the examination of students’ own thoughts and conduct, in order to capture a moment or feeling that is central to understanding a particular concept or historical event.

3 Connections between concepts & events Too often in the conventional classroom, students don’t learn social studies, they memorize it. History, geography, economics, and civics are often presented— by teacher and textbook alike—as a series of names, dates, and facts. Some students are adept at memorizing these; most are not. But even students who memorize well generally do not retain the information longer that it takes to regurgitate it on a test. Fewer still are able to demonstrate real understanding of, or appreciation for, the effect that various concepts and events have—or have had—on their own lives. Lost are the rich human dramas, the compelling experiences of the individuals who have shaped our history and our political and economic realities, and the connections between concepts and events. Experiential Exercises ensure that students grasp and remember even the highest-level concepts.

4 Examples please… To help students understand the strengths and weakness of the Roman Empire, for example, you might arrange students in a large donut-like shape (the empire surrounding the Mediterranean), variously assigning them roles as Romans, Provincials, or Barbarians. “Roman” Experiential Exercise 47 armies gather wealth from the far-flung provinces, but also encounter the difficulty of defending the empire from barbarian invasions. Or, to understand the lifestyle of medieval monks, students might take “vows” of poverty, obedience, and silence—and proceed through the entire activity while trying to honor those vows. To understand the factors that drive modern-day Mexicans to migrate to the United States, students might take on the roles of central Mexican villagers, sharing their views about emigration during a typical evening stroll in the village plaza. Students react to each experience as if it were real life, gaining an appreciation of key concepts that they will remember for a long time.

5 Give me an example The Fear and Paranoia of McCarthyism Students experience the fear of communism and the paranoia that fueled McCarthyism through a game of “Fear of Dots.” Students are given a slip of paper that is either blank or contains a dot, and keep their designation secret as they move about the room trying to form a “dot-free” group while relying on questioning and suspicion.

6 Benefits? Taps into students’ intrapersonal and body-kinesthetic intelligences Allows students to “experience” key concepts firsthand Makes abstract ideas or remote events meaningful Provides an appreciation for the event which lasts longer than memorizing names, dates, and facts

7 Step 1 Create a short, memorable experience to help students grasp a social studies concept.

8 When? When you can easily recreate a key event or concept –Re-creating World War I trench warfare may seem daunting, but it takes just 10 minutes to transform your room into a simulated battlefield. –The result will be rich, experiential learning with economy of time and energy. When the topic can be absorbed through a physical or emotional experience –The tedium, physical strain, and dehumanizing nature of assembly-line work, for example, cannot be communicated adequately through readings or images –Students must feel its physical and emotional effects. –They will literally have a “muscle memory” of some of the advantages and disadvantages of assembly-line work.

9 Use them when you want to evoke an emotional response so that students react empathetically to concepts they might otherwise find remote or unimportant. –For example, today’s students have a difficult time understanding the devastation of people who lost their savings when the banks failed during the Great Depression. –They become much more empathetic after an activity in which they experience something like the pain of a failing economy themselves. –To set up the experience, you would first give a quiz on which students earn points important for their grade. The next day, you tell them regretfully that half of their quizzes were “lost”—misplaced, inadvertently thrown away, or stolen.

10 Use them when you want to emphasize how a historical occurrence affected the way people felt or reacted. For students to understand the behavior of people in history, for example, they must appreciate the conditions that shape people’s responses. Experiential Exercises can replicate the conditions of a time or place so that students respond in ways similar to those of individuals in the real life situation. To help students understand McCarthyism, you give each student a slip of paper, either blank (good) or containing a dot (bad). Students keep their designation secret as they move about the room, trying to form a large “dot-free” group while relying only on questioning and suspicion. Afterward, carefully sequence questions to help students draw parallels between the “fear of dots” and the resulting classroom behavior, and the fear of communism and the rise of McCarthyism.

11 Step 2 Prepare your students for a safe, successful experience.

12 How? Make sure it is age appropriate Prepare administration and families Arrange the classroom ahead of time Communicate clear expectations Anticipate reactions and be prepared with a response Recognize teachable moments

13 Step 3 Make the experience as authentic as possible “Tell me, I’ll forget. Teach me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.”

14 How? Assume the proper persona (you too are acting) Ham it up- use simple props, costumes, music, and sound effects.

15 Step 4 Allow students to express their feelings immediately after the experience.

16 Why? Students need to identify and articulate their feelings to process the situation Students need to realize their reactions are acceptable and based in historical context

17 Step 5 Ask carefully sequenced questions to help make connections between students’ experiences and key concepts or events.

18 Why? Students had not previously been introduced to the concept, so the connection between the situation and reality must be spelled out in carefully sequenced spiraling questions in order to fully comprehend the experience and draw their own conclusions

19 Debriefing Questions What feelings did you experience during this activity? Describe the kind of work you did on the assembly line. What made assembly-line work difficult? What made it desirable? How did you cope with the repetition? How do you feel about the product you were making? How do you think turn-of-the-century assembly-line workers felt about their jobs? Why do you think factory owners used the assembly line as a method of production? What are the positive aspects of mass production? the negative aspects? In what ways do you think this activity was similar to real assembly lines? In what ways do you think this activity was different from real assembly lines?

20 Don’t underestimate the complexities Notice that the last two questions ask students to compare how the experience was both like and unlike reality. As students explore how Experiential Exercises compare to real life, they begin to see the differences in magnitude, scope, and seriousness between the classroom activity and historical reality. Failing to confront these differences after the assembly-line activity would trivialize the experience of workers during the Industrial Revolution. And neglecting to make comparisons to real life after an Experiential Exercises runs the risk that students will underestimate the complexities of the concept or event they are exploring.

21 EE Tips Prepare students for a safe, successful experience by arranging the classroom appropriately, communicating clear behavioral and learning expectations, anticipating student reactions, and recognizing teachable moments. Bring authenticity to the experience by assuming an appropriate persona, hamming it up, and using simple props, costumes, music, and sound effects. Allow students to express their feelings immediately after the experience. Ask carefully sequenced questions to help students make connections between their experiences and key concepts or events.


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