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Engaged and Active Learning in 2nd Grade

On Thursday night, I attended Charles and Guillaume’s classes’ performance. My smile grew and my eyes got a little damp as the show went on and I saw how motivated, engaged, and happy the students were as they demonstrated multitudes of skills they had learned through this project. Such motivation and engagement ensures deep learning. We’ve been talking a lot about 21st Century Skills lately, and how to best prepare our children for an unknown future. Philippe’s blog last week examined this and pointed to Tony Wagner’s work on defining these skills. This past week, we had a few examples in our own school, such as the 2nd grade performance.

The performance was truly interdisciplinary. At the core was a story to be conveyed, using skills associated with language arts. The majority of the performance was based in music and dance and visual arts, but students expanded on skills traditionally found in math and science as they determined how to use the stage as a whole group, balance, and portray even or uneven numbers of people working with or against each other in the story. Kinesthetic, auditory, visual, interpersonal, emotional – all of these modes of learning and more were accessed in the preparation and performance.

Throughout the preparation and performance, the students solved problems, collaborated, expanded their adaptability, developed and expressed their innovation, creativity and imaginations, deepened their communication skills between each other and in a formal way to the audience, and practiced risk taking. They learned their parts and worked as a community, but also expressed their individuality in the parts of the performance where the students could move as they were moved to. Each student shone, and we could all see how they were truly living in the moment and learning from it.

Ultimately, the 2nd graders were active participants in their own learning. Charles and Guillaume put anxieties about “covering the material” in a traditional way aside and gave our students an opportunity to be truly active participants in their own learning. This is the type of lesson a student remembers his or her whole life, and where they grow in a multitude of ways. While they might not all be so large-scale, the sentiment of this type of project is how we will best prepare our students for the future.

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