GETTING OUT OF THE TEXTBOOKS


"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves."
Thomas Edison


Getting out of the textbooks means just that! Learning disabled students need something other than textbooks to hold their attention. Getting out of the textbooks means students learn by doing using a non-traditional approach such as:


LEARNING BY DOING

When we think of traditional schooling, we usually think about the way we were taught. Think about these two questions:

  • HOW WERE YOU TAUGHT?

  • HOW DID YOU LEARN?

Most of us will immediately respond, "in a classroom; with a textbook”. But was that the only way you learned? And was the classroom teacher the only person you learned from?

Of course not! If you play an instrument, you were taught by piano teacher or you took music lessons. You learned by doing. If you are an athlete, you had a coach who made you practice basic skills over and over again.


Textbooks aren’t the only way to learn. Students with learning disabilities want to learn, but many get distracted easily. Most LD students have a reading disability as well. All of us have a way we learn best. We can be auditory, kinesthetic (hands on) or visual learners. Most of us learn by doing.


NON-TRADITIONAL APPROACH

How then is your student going to learn history, science, geography and math?

FOR EXAMPLE: I was never very good at science. In fact, I hated science UNTIL I went to college. I still didn’t like my biology class—when I had to read a textbook. BUT I did like biology when we did dissections.

When I had to take a methods class on how to teach science, the teacher did a lot of hands-on projects. I had never done these as an elementary student. I LOVED this out of the textbook approach to learning.

Are you at a loss of what hands-on activities you can do for science? One of my most favorite books is Backyard Science. This book has lots of experiments using household items and things found in your backyard!

When I was teaching 5th grade, I did a weather station with the class. We made about 5 different instruments from items we had around the house. It was great fun and the students keep a weather log everyday for 2 weeks. We then plotted the temperature, wind and barometric pressure and compared one week to the following week. WHAT FUN THIS WAS!


USING TRADE BOOKS

Trade books are anything other than textbooks. Books that are published for the general public and are bought through bookstores or discount stores. There are two types: fiction, and non-fiction books.

If we value freedom, then our children need to know American History. The problem with trying to teach history is that there is a lot of it! Some of our history is more interesting than other parts. OR is it? What I think is an important aspect about our country’s past may not seem so interesting to you.

But it seems that textbooks are teaching the same history facts from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Sure the content may vary a little, but for the most part, our children don’t seem to know too much about our country’s past or present.


How can we change this? How do we make History more interesting to our learning disabled children? What can we do to get our struggling students excited about science?


FICTION BOOKS


Using historical fiction books instead of using a history textbook will insure the student is engaged in learning. Historical fiction is an untrue story but the history facts are true. Students reading this type of book will learn just as much history as reading a textbook. The difference is, he will remember the facts read in this context versus memorizing facts from a history textbook.

NON-FICTION BOOKS

Non-fiction books are true stories of people and places. These include auto-biographies and biographies. All the facts are true. It is good to pair a non-fiction book and a fiction book together when studying a topic such as the Civil War, or a famous scientist. There is a sense of adventure with the fiction book and yet the student is learning the historical facts while reading the non-fiction book.


USING GAMES



Pairing books that are being read with games reinforces the knowledge the student is gleaning from the books. These can be board games, card games or competitive active games. Even a weather station kit, like the one I mentioned above, or a chemistry kit can even be used as reinforcement tools.

Smart Kid Educational Games suggests educational games that help children build their skills and develop a love for learning. Games also ignite a passion and foster a child’s CREATIVITY. The Parents as Teachers section gives much advice on how to "generate enthusiasm" for learning. Choose from reading games, geography and history games, math games and even art games. You will find games for all ages: 8 (months) to 80!


FIELD TRIPS

Another way to reinforce the material you want your student to remember is by taking field trips. There is a lot of history, both past, and present, right in your own city and state. There is no need to go long distances for a field trip.

A learning disabled student loves going and doing. Going on a field trip is something he will get into and will remember. Have a study guide for him to help him stay focused. When you return from the field trip, have him make a brochure of the place he visited.


A field trip most kids love time-and-time again is a trip to the zoo. Do a trip as a follow up lesson to studying about animals. Perhaps a natural history museum would be his favorite place if he like dinosaurs. Have him take pictures (if allowed) of what he sees so he can write about it later.


USING THE INTERNET

Using the internet for research on a topic of interest to your student, will insure that he is being interactive with learning instead of being a passive listener. The internet is so much easier for the LD student to use because:

  • paragraphs are usually broken up into smaller bite-size pieces.

  • Also, websites usually have a lot more pictures and graphics.

  • Information can be easily scanned because of the use of sections with a topic headline.

Here is one such website about the Revolutionary War. This site gives information about the generals on both sides of the war, the timeline, the spies and the women. This site is appropriate for grades 7-12 grade.

Experience Ancient Egypt is another site I think middle-schoolers and high school students would be interested in. A native Egyptian tells about ancient Egyptian culture and society - from pharaohs to farmers to the pyramid builders. Topics include history, mythology, language and daily life.


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