Thanks to Dr. Carolyn Reeves, educator and author, for sharing her expertise with us today!
“Science is so boring.” “Science is just for super smart students.” “Dad doesn’t know why I can’t remember what we studied first semester.” These are discouraging comments to homeschool teachers, but the good news is that great science lessons are very do-able and don’t require parents to be experts in science.
The difference between a dull boring lesson that is quickly forgotten and an engaging, enduring one often hinges on minor adjustments in how lessons are presented. Obviously, it would be a waste of time to try to put socks on a child after their shoes were already on their feet. In the same way, homeschool teachers need to understand the logic of an orderly progression of learning.
The following principles virtually guarantee successful, interesting lessons.
- Plan the lesson around a few bite-sized main concepts.
- Begin each lesson in a way that engages students’ interests. Students will anticipate learning about ideas that capture their interest. Help them recall previous learning and experiences related to the lesson. Our brains can easily store new information if it can make a firm connection to previous knowledge and experiences. On the other hand, brains have trouble holding on to isolated facts that are irrelevant to the students.
- Next, give students an opportunity to personally investigate or explore something about each lesson.
- Provide a simple explanation for what the students observed and explain the lesson’s main concepts. There are several advantages of waiting until the students have had an opportunity to observe and experience the investigation before giving them an explanation. Students will naturally be curious and ready to find out why these things happened. The investigation provides a good connecting point in the brain to store the explanation. The explanation will make more sense at this point.
- Begin to expand the lesson and bring in other ideas after the basic concepts have been mastered. Try to help students make connections to a variety of related topics.
- The real learning occurs when students are given an opportunity to choose a specific related topic and do more research on their own. Their research can be in the form of an art project, a drama, an interview, a creative writing project, a building project, or any other medium in which they can express their ideas.
- Evaluate and encourage.
Dr. Carolyn Reeves is the co-author of the Investigate the Possibilities series of elementary science textbooks used by many homeschoolers. The books, published by Master Books, provide lessons tailored to follow a brain-compatible learning progression.