Home Academic information How to Fight “Educational Numbness” with Experiential Learning

How to Fight “Educational Numbness” with Experiential Learning


Germán said that creating experiential learning moments in ELA classrooms creates opportunities for students to learn in a way that applies their senses and resists the passivity that many learning environments seem to demand. “The textured teaching says that you are a human being who has feelings, who is sensitive, and I want you to bring that here,” Germán said.

Identify moments in the text for experiential activities

Germán said that the students, in particular teens, need a lot of stimulation to keep the information and then apply it. “I want [students] to sit down and read this book, and it moves you so much that you might cry, ”said Germán. “I want those emotions in there. I want that passion in there because it’s OK and it’s conducive to learning. She focuses on engaging the five senses to bring texts to life, incorporating ways for students to see, touch, hear, smell, and even taste things that are relevant to what they are reading at that time. .

To ensure that experiential learning activities are grounded in the development of academic skills, Germán targets moments in texts that help students analyze and understand six basic concepts:

  • Characterization. How did the author develop the characters?
  • Theme. What are the central or recurring ideas that the author explores?
  • Setting. Where are things going and how does this influence the characters?
  • Ground. What is the arc of the story?
  • Social justice. What ideas has the author explored that relate to race and inclusiveness?
  • Text-to-self connections. Are there any experiences in history that are unfamiliar to the students, but relevant to the present?

Often times, these basic concepts can overlap and can expose students to parts of the book that may have gone unnoticed. For example, when Germán was reading “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” with her students, she took them to the Colorado River to help them understand how the characters would have experienced the escape to the Mississippi River. She felt that this experiential learning opportunity allowed her to better communicate the dangers Jim’s character would have felt as a once enslaved runaway. “The students touched the ground, smelled the cold water, walked past branches and physically felt what the space looked like,” Germán said.

HoweverSome teachers are familiar with experiential learning because they saw how it went wrong and turned into a potentially dangerous simulation. Simulations work “Curriculum violence»And negatively impact the emotional well-being of some learners. Germán cautions educators to avoid scenarios that recreate oppressive structures or expose marginalized students to harm, such as historical re-enactments or make stereotypes.

“Part of what people are trying to do with these horribly terrible simulations is inspire empathy,” Germán said. “We can do this without asking people to relive war crimes, for example, or slavery”

For example, one year Germán was teaching “The Night”, a dissertation by Elie Wiesel on the Holocaust. His students struggled to conceptualize the railroad cars that were used to take Jews and others to concentration camps. She started by showing photos to her students, but since they still didn’t understand the concept, she worked with a small group of students to measure the dimensions of the wagon on the ground with cardboard. Together, they wrote details from the book such as the country’s weather at the time and the characteristics of the cars on the board.

She did not ask the students to go inside the structure or to simulate the moments described in the book, as this could cause damage. Instead, she asked the students to stand outside and talk about what they noticed and how having a physical representation of the dimensions strengthened their understanding of the book. “It helps them both to see it, to imagine a little bit, and to have empathy without me saying, ‘Let’s practice being in a war crime. “”

If teachers make mistakes that become a simulation when trying to involve students in an experiential learning activity, Germán advises taking the time to reflect on what went wrong at each moment. “Acknowledging your mistake is going to be very important here,” she writes in Textured Teaching. If necessary, teachers should contact their administrators, share what went wrong and what their next steps are. Teachers can sit down with their students to apologize and clarify any incorrect information or misconceptions. “You should refrain from doing other recreations until you have a better understanding of the difference between recreations and simulations and how to plan one effectively. “

Invite people to your class

Another way to facilitate an experiential moment is to have someone come to the classroom to talk to the students. Germán said it adds “aural texture” to the classroom. Teachers can start by asking what voices are missing in their lessons and invite people who can create a holistic understanding what students learn in class. “Often, English classrooms feel restrictive and rigid, as they overwhelmingly involve reading and writing while sitting quietly at a desk. It is a good opportunity to get out of the office, enter a community circle and listen.

Germán encourages teachers to consider inviting members of the community who do not speak English as their primary language to the classroom. “Who you bring in communicates who you appreciate,” she said. Making other voices heard can also make students more aware of how certain identities have been excluded from American schools. Before welcoming speakers into the classroom, teachers can prepare students to interact with visitors. “There has to be this basis of how to ask questions with respect,” Germán said. She also wants to make sure students understand how to ask questions that go beyond identity and content. “So that they’re not just sitting here wondering about your culture, but about the impact of your culture on the thing you’re talking about.”

Debriefings are essential to conclude the experiential activities. It usually gives students three options: an independent journal, a conversation with a partner, or a conversation with the whole class. “I always offer a invite,” she said. “I think sometimes the debriefing doesn’t work well because the teachers just want to say, ‘What did you think? “”

Some of his tried and true prompts are “What happened to you today during this learning experience that you hadn’t considered before?” Or “Do you have a new idea of ​​the things we talked about? “