Why & How to Add Hands-on Learning Activities to Middle School Lessons
When children are young it is easy to add crafts and activities to their learning plans. As students get older their coursework tends to include more traditional curriculum such as textbooks and online courses.
Hands-on learning activities shouldn’t stop when kids move into middle school! It’s one of the reasons why I love using math games for middle school.
When our children are young it’s usually a given that we include a lot of crafts and games to their learning activities. Young students are eager to take in information through all of their senses. They absorb everything we share with them. They especially love to get messy and show off their accomplishments.
As students move into the middle school years homeschool parents often feel the need to use more “traditional curriculum”. We want to make sure our kids are prepared for high school and have a strong foundation of knowledge. Although older students may be able to successfully take-in and process information by reading and listening, they actually learn best by exploring and asking questions.
As our students are getting older it is important to remember that at this developmental stage, older students are naturally questioning EVERYTHING! They don’t automatically accept the things we tell them – they naturally ask “WHY?”.
How Should We Teach at this Stage?
From “The Logic Stage” of “The Well-Trained Mind”:
You’ll be asking her to dig a little deeper, to do more discovering on her own. Instead of lecturing, you’ll concentrate on carrying on a dialogue with your child.…You’ll allow the child to disagree with your conclusions, if she can support her point with the facts. And, you’ll expect her not simply to repeat what she’s read, but to rework the material to reflect her own thoughts. Once she’s done thins, she’ll have learned the material once and for all. – Page 234
Let’s be sure to use this curiosity to everyone’s advantage and supplement older students’ lessons with hands-on learning activities.
A Few Tips for Homeschool Parents
I know, the idea of finding and preparing hands-on learning activities for older students sounds a lot more time consuming and than those pre-school craft projects we all know and love. Don’t worry; here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. You don’t have to supplement every lesson
Select one history topic a week (or month) and have the kids explore it further by doing additional research. For example, they could build a scale model of a famous landmark they are studying.
2. Get kids involved in finding activities
Older students should be able to look through a book of science experiment and select one that demonstrates the concepts they are studying. By this age kids can independently gather materials from around the house and complete the activities with very little help. Make sure they remember to clean up behind themselves too!
3. Trial and error is a good thing
Kids will learn best when they try a project from start to finish alone, attempting to answer questions that arise. If they follow a recipe and it doesn’t work out, they can retrace their steps and figure out what they measured or added incorrectly. Then they can make another batch of cookies (following the recipe correctly) to learn from their errors and have a tasty treat to show for their effort. 🙂
4. Enlist the support of other families
If there is a subject you don’t enjoy or feel comfortable teaching as the content gets more advance, join with another family to cover the subject. Our kids have been participating in a book club for years. The kids read classic books at home and then meet to have discussions and participate in activities together.
5. Have kids work together to complete activities
Kids need to build communication and team building skills. By working with their friends on a project they can brainstorm, create hypothesis, test possible solutions, and discuss their findings together.
Remember, this is the time to encourage kids to become more independent learners. By finding answers to their questions using hands-on activities they will be able to try out possible solutions and understand how the result s were achieved.
Hands-on Learning Ideas for Older Students
Please don’t feel like you have to be super creative when thinking up ideas for activities for older students. Here are some general ideas you may be able to apply to your situation (we have hyperlinked some specific examples to give you even more possibilities).
History & Geography – Make connections between events
Science – Practice using the Scientific Method
Ask a question, do some research, create a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, and analyze results.
Math – Build practical connections to real life
- Start a savings account
- Create a family grocery list & determine the cost of items
- Calculate the distance between home and your vacation destination
- Determine profits and expenses for a small business
- Figure out how much of a tip to leave at a restaurant
- Double a recipe
Literature – Discuss and explore great books
- Author Study
- Group Discussions
- Art & Craft Projects
- Food & Games
- Map Making
How do you incorporate hands-on learning activities with your child’s middle school lessons?