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The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast | ELA

Jun 29, 2023

A few years ago I read Sarah Fine and Jal Mehta’s book, In Search of Deeper Learning. These two researchers criss-crossed the country, searching out schools, programs, and classes where deeper learning was truly taking place behind the marketing hype about how “innovative” the school aimed to be.

 One of the key concepts that stayed with me was an idea they shared from another education writer named David Perkins, who argues that students need to “play the whole game at the junior level.” Mehta and Fine found that when students played the whole game, more deeper learning took place.

 So what the heck does that mean? Think of a baseball game full of six year olds. They don’t really know how to play, right? They could probably spend years just practicing batting, throwing, and catching before their games would be very meaningful.

But why do kids want to play? They want to be in games!

They come to practice and work on their swing and their fielding and deal with the mosquitos and the occasional boredom BECAUSE there’s a game on Saturday. With cool uniforms and their parents in the stands and maybe chocolate-covered frozen bananas afterwards. Do you think as many kids would sign up for little league if their first game was going to be when they turned 18? 

I bet you’re already making the connection. When we practice skills with students, it helps a whole lot if they can see why they’re practicing those skills and if they’re going to have a chance to put them into action in a way that parallels something they might do later on in the real world. 

I highly recommend thinking about how you might build a few more “games” into your curriculum, or if you’re already building units this way, how you might use this powerful research to help explain to others why you do the projects you do.

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