[Blended Learning] Making Time for Hands-On Experiences in the K–6 Classroom

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 -- Madison Michell

Given the power of student data, individualized learning paths, and anytime access, online programs are appealing to teachers and students alike. That said, in an age where technology is being infused into classroom instruction more and more, there are concerns that our nation’s youngest students aren’t getting enough tactile and kinesthetic learning experiences.

So, we posed the question: how are technology tools balancing screen time with more traditional early learning experiences? Let’s take a closer look at four ways in which educational technology can engage different learning modalities with meaningful complementary resources and interactive experiences.

1. Break it down with song and dance

When learning can include physical movement in a non-disruptive way, it’s considered a win in the elementary classroom. Sometimes, young children just need to “shake out their wiggles” in order to focus on the task at hand by busting out a few dance moves, marching in place, or singing along to a tune. Digital solutions that incorporate music and movement inspire this kind of activity and simultaneously reinforce skills like letter sounds and math fact fluency. Take a peek at one example from our pre-K through 6th grade digital program, EducationCity, and get your students dancing, singing, and learning their 8 times table all at the same time.

2. Get hands-on with manipulatives

For your predominantly tactile learners, you will probably look to infuse a more hands-on approach to instruction. Things such as Model Magic (a mess-free Play-Doh alternative), magnets, Wikki Stix, and sand are great tools to help reinforce concepts for this learning modality. But, just how do digital tools help support the use of manipulatives like these?

Online programs often incorporate a variety of instructional teacher tools you don’t want to gloss over. You might find printouts, that once laminated, can become a center for young learners to use manipulatives on to practice printing letters and numbers. Our learn-to-read programs, Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress, even offer a handwriting tool that allows you to build your own printables to practice constructing words of your choice, including letters, names, and spelling words!

Reading Eggs Handwriting Tool

3. Act it out in reader’s theater

Make reading come alive by turning some of your class’ favorite stories into a reader’s theater! After reading a book with your class, encourage students to identify and create the characters and the setting of the story using paper, colors, and Popsicle sticks. Assign roles and help students practice reading fluently with inflection for their upcoming performance. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to put on a show! To ensure that your digital program can aid you in this effort, look for a solution that includes a bank of exciting and appropriately leveled reading materials.

Our programs, Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress, include an e-library of over 2,000 books for students to choose from. Each book is projectable for whole-class sharing and includes color illustrations as well as read-aloud audio to help engage young learners.

Reading Eggs Library

4. Extend learning with experiments

To really help students dig in and explore different concepts at their own pace, offering opportunities for experimentation can be the ticket. But, it’s a lot easier said than done to try and design, prep, and carry out an experiment with a full class of students. Look for digital programs that extend learning with pre-built experiments that connect back to the instruction that students experience in the program.

Consider this example of a lesson on topographical maps from EducationCity. The lesson plan includes a 50-minute hands-on activity that instructs students on how to build their own topographic map using interlocking blocks of different shapes and sizes to build and trace the different elevations of a “mountain.” Most activities in EducationCity are accompanied by a lesson plan with helpful extension resources for teachers.

As you navigate through the selection process for your next online tool, ensure that you’re raising the bar on what you expect from your digital partner. For more blended learning tips, check out this post on 5 qualities to look for in an edtech provider or download our Education Technology Evaluation Guide!