Please forward this error screen to 209. Hands-On Is Minds-On Want to Engage Every Hands on learning activities for preschoolers? Second-grade teacher Becky Hicks has learned that there is no substitute for activities that require kids to use their hands as well as their minds.
During literacy hour in Hicks’s class at Blanchard Elementary School in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, students pair up and head to one of 16 “corners,” or centers, to tackle hands-on vocabulary, reading, and math activities. In the ABC corner, students thumb through clues to find mystery words. In corners, Hicks’s students practice what they know by playing teacher. Look closely at the clock’s hands,” one student says to her partner in her best teacher voice. Which one shows the hour, and which one shows the minutes?
Some explain their work to other students by showing them how to move, group, or assemble objects. Concepts are explained through tactile procedures, and skills are bolstered as children practice new ideas and test out theories. Over the years, Hicks has noticed that her students are more engaged and focused when they’re working on hands-on projects—even those who fidget during large-group lessons. In her classroom, Hicks has figured out what research has revealed: The best way to engage kids’ brains is by having them move their hands. As students put projects together, create crafts, or use familiar materials in new ways, they’re constructing meaning. Kids learn through all their senses,” says Ben Mardell, PhD, a researcher with Project Zero at Harvard University, “and they like to touch and manipulate things.
But more than simply moving materials around, hands-on activities activate kids’ brains. When you combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas of the brain. Multitasking in the classroom is not a negative when it comes to hands-on activities such as coloring, scribbling, or cutting with scissors. Indeed, even adults benefit from the “busy hands, busy brain” phenomenon: Recent research has shown that people who doodle during business meetings have better memory recall. He fidgets during large-group activities but can spend hours drawing or building. We know our students learn in many different ways: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and social. Still, says Dodge, most of us teach the way we’re most comfortable, and that’s not necessarily the way our students learn.
It’s a missed opportunity if we don’t use the way that a child learns best to hook them and get them excited about learning,” says Dodge. Hands-on projects obviously engage kids who are tactile or kinesthetic learners, who need movement to learn best. They also engage students who are auditory learners, who talk about what they’re doing, and visual learners, who have the opportunity to see what everyone else is creating. For social learners, the time spent in small group conversation will strengthen their knowledge. Just as Hicks has found in her classroom, hands-on activities let students become teachers. Hands-on activities also lend themselves to authentic assessment and observation, says Lanise Jacoby, a 2nd grade teacher at Pierce School in Arlington, Massachusetts, who observes how well her students follow directions and use fine motor skills during center time.