Ways to Reinforce Learning with Meaningful Activities

There are many ways to reinforce learning with student-designed or creative assignments.

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There is an increasing amount of attention being given to homework by school districts, students, teachers and parents. The quality and quantity is being called into question. Some people wonder whether the work is truly reinforcing instruction or if it is only glorified busywork. For those teachers who have difficulty finding meaningful homework, or for teachers who just need some new ideas for classwork, here are some things to think about when creating unique and authentic instructional reinforcement.

Consider Inquiry-Based Learning

I am a firm believer in inquiry-based learning. I think that pupils should engage with the text, ask thought-provoking questions and find the answers through research, discussion and exploration. When my students are reading a text, I often have them construct individual assignments. For example, in any text that contains racial profiling, gender discrimination, ethnic discrimination, or something similar, my homework assignment is for them to observe these behaviors in action and then write a brief report. This method of assigning homework offers an individualized assignment, while eliminating the use of the standard worksheet.

Student-Created Worksheets

In order to accommodate every learning style, I often have my learners create some type of worksheet that can be used while we are reading the text or that we can use sometime later during the unit. Each pupil is graded on the format of the worksheet, as well as on the questions he asked. They must also provide an accurate answer key. I like this method because students can focus on one specific theme/conflict or address the book as a whole. It also gives me the opportunity to determine how well they comprehend the material. It is important for learners to feel that they have a say in what happens in the classroom. This activity gives them an opportunity to contribute in a way they find meaningful.

Activities Facilitate Learning

I often substitute in-class or hands-on activities for worksheets. For example, I have my pupils create timelines and/or story lines, character profiles, collages, or journals while they are in class. As they work, I observe their interactions, listen to their discussions, and sometimes act as a facilitator. I believe that students can learn as much from their peers as from traditional teacher instruction.

Something else I have found useful—place a “question box” somewhere in the room.  Have your scholars write down questions that they think would be good for worksheets or tests. Use of few student-generated questions on every assessment, and you will find that even your most reluctant learners will begin to be more engaged in the learning process. 

Alternatives to Worksheets:

The Dracula Game

If you are courageous and artistic, try this lesson. Rather than using a standard worksheet, pupils create a board game based on the text. This is an awesome idea!!

Heart of Darkness

This is a fun lesson that gives learners the opportunity to not only demonstrate how well they understand the text, but to show how creative they can be. In groups or as individuals, pupils construct an alternate ending. Be sure that you read each story.

Island Survival

This is a really creative and interactive lesson. Young scholars work together to formulate a survival plan given specific constraints. The lesson outlines how points can be included.

1984: How Much Fact in Fiction?

I like this lesson because it includes hands-on work. After reading, learners develop their ideas and visually represent them on poster board. This leads to a group discussion, which provides authentic learning in an engaging lesson.