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Imagination And Learning: Students Living "real" Lives During The Civil War

By Author: Tracy carter
Total Articles: 101

I remember my first year of teaching eighth-grade English, trying to reveal the history of the language to my students. I lingered lovingly on the Great Vowel Shift, while they shifted in their seats, watching the sailboats out on Lake Michigan, thinking about the Cubs. Even if I painted pictures of Viking conquerors invading the conjugation of verbs, I could not capture their attention. I felt restless, too, and found myself drifting. I knew that something had to change in the next unit, which I had already hoped to link with our history teacher's Civil War studies.

When constructing lesson plans, I needed to rely on my sympathetic connection with my students. To determine the best way to help Omega Replica them learn, I had to ask myself, "How do I learn?"

The answer is that I learn when I am active, when I apply my imagination to a real task that matters to me. I learn when I have a spoon in my hand at the stove, when I have an argument with my children, when I compose a lesson plan, when I make up a story, when I chat with my friends on Facebook, when I read Emily Dickinson in the middle of the night.

So why did I insist for many years that my students stay in the classroom, read and listen to me, and then write? Yes, I had them working in cooperative groups, running class discussions, acting out plays, but it never felt like true, imaginative, authentic learning. Research tells us that adolescents need learning to connect to real life, and for years we have known that interdisciplinary work mimics the learning we do when we are active in the world. Mary Adler and Sheila Flihan summarize the findings nicely when they write of interdisciplinary learning: "Students of all academic and cultural backgrounds are also reported to experience a variety of benefits {from interdisciplinary studies]. Reports claim primarily positive outcomes in achievement, behavior, attitude, literacy practices, and student learning experiences that parallel real world problem-solving to a greater degree". Indeed, John Dewey warns against knowledge "segregated when it was acquired and hence is so disconnected from the rest of experience that it is not available under the actual condition of life". The last thing I want to promote is disconnected, unimaginative learning. Interdisciplinary work seems like the key to authenticity but, more importantly, to that imaginative spark. I needed to put Breitling Replica Watches students in a place where they were acting and creating, working across disciplines in a project that mattered to them. History abounds with imaginative thinking done outside the classroom. Think Mark Twain on the river, Enrico Fermi under the football stadium, Elizabeth Barrett in her father's study, Steve Jobs in the garage

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