How well do you understand the Learning Cycle? Part 2

On to part II. My goal had been to have this up yesterday, but all that sitting around in a lawn chair, eating food off the grill, and watching the younger crowd in the family zip around in the ski boat wore my old rear end out.

In part I, I discussed that the  Learning Cycle is learner centered. (Hold your horses, I'm going to actually describe the steps in the learning cycle shortly.) Some of you are probably thinking "Yikes!!! Learner centered = lots of noise" That's what I thought, and still struggle with. I don't like loud. Unless you are Led Zeppelin, I don't want you in my room making noise. So, this past year my goal was to let go and not feel as if I had to be in total control all the time. I'm making progress in that department.

So, what are the steps of the "Learning Cycle"? Well there are three basic phases (I'll discuss the 5E model throughtout, as it is really just a form of the original three steps).

1. The first step is Exploration. This is where you first get the little peeps attention and turn them loose to explore a concept (Engage & Explore). During this phase students are observing, communicating, comparing, organizing, relating, inferring, and applying the previous activities to creating a plan. I think this is probably the hardest part. I want to engage my kids in a way that makes them think about what they know (or think they know). Probes, the "K" from KWL, think-pair share, are all good activities. It's is through the exploration phase that the students should begin constructing meaning, and even struggling (yes I said struggling) with reconciling their misconceptions with what they are actually learning. They are building schema.
2. The second step is Concept Invention (Explain). This was the most eye-opening step for me, because this is where the learner actually makes a concept statement and learns the vocabulary. What??? Shouldn't I pre-teach the vocabulary? No. There is a ton of research about vocabulary acquisition that negates the pre-teaching of vocabulary. Vocabulary is best introduced after the initial exploration phase. Of course, you still want to incorporate lots of vocabulary practice activities. You can't just introduce a word and expect it to stick.
3. Application (Extend) is the third and final step of the Learning Cycle. Hopefully your students new learnings will lead to new questions and wonderings. Or, you have been working on a concept that can be taken a little bit deeper. This is where you can extend the learning. You do this with.... a brand new Exploration. So, in a sense Learning Cycle is truly a cycle!

Some of you are probably wondering "What about the fifth E?" When do I evaluate. Well, of course you can pop in an assessment of some sort at the end of a unit, but evaluating your students' learning should be imbedded within and throughout the cycle in the form of formative assessments. Which brings me back to learner centered. The teacher is still right with the kids, listening and carefully guiding with questioning that leads to discovery. Listening to their discussions and reading their reflections etc...,  will provide you with a lot of information about what your kids understand and don't understand which in turn will help you plan and intervene.

I never would have thought that I would find this interesting, but I really do. In fact, I find it fascinating. Seriously. This method of teaching is not easy, and it challenges a lot of beliefs I had about instruction. I have had lessons that didn't go well and flopped, and I have had some that worked beautifully with the kids really "getting it". But it is all a work in progress.

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Y'all have a great day! 


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