What is the active learning approach?
The active learning approach is a learner-centered pedagogical strategy. It is an instructional method that puts the students at the center of the learning process. Students play an active role in constructing their understanding of the content material through thinking, discussing, and problem-solving. The active learning approach helps students remain inspired and engaged during lessons.
What does the active learning approach for upper elementary students look like?
Upper elementary students have the maturity and know-how to begin to take charge of their learning. Active learning strategies that students may engage in could include thinking, conferring, analyzing, and constructing. In class, students may collaborate with peers to practice skills, solve problems, and explain and defend ideas in their own words.
For classrooms with flexible seating options, upper elementary students engaged in the active learning approach have the autonomy to decide what kind of learning space works best for them. Students might lay belly-down on the floor, sit at low tables on their knees, or even stand up. Flexible seating not only allows students to pick a spot most conducive to their learning, but it also allows students to collaborate, communicate, and integrate their learning.
3 active learning strategies to try in your upper elementary classroom
Think-Pair-Share is a cooperative learning activity. It can be applied to a wide variety of classrooms and subject matters. In a think-pair-share activity, a question or problem will be posed to the class. Your students will first get time to think of their own response, and then pair up with a peer to discuss their thinking. Finally, the class will reconvene as a team and students can share the pair’s responses.
2. Muddiest Point Paper
A “muddiest point paper” is a self-assessment strategy used as formative assessment. At the end of class, give students 1-2 minutes to answer the following question “What was the muddiest (least clear) point from today’s lesson?” Collect student responses and address these responses during the next lesson.
3. Group projects
When students work in groups, they actively engage with content materials while collaborating with peers. One of my favorite group project activities to do with upper elementary students is the “gallery walk”. In a gallery walk activity, students will create a poster on a given topic in groups. The posters will then be displayed around the classroom. Each group is responsible for explaining their poster while the class visits each poster around the room. Not only does a gallery walk activity allow students to learn from other peers, but it also allows students meaningful movement around the classroom.
Do you teach younger learners? I also wrote about how to incorporate the Active Learning Approach with Young Learners. Read it here!