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Constructing Meaning & Constructing Fun


Constructivism can be used as a theoretical approach to teaching students of any age

group. Constructivism, according to Jacqueline Brooks and Martin Brooks, is when a teacher,

searches for students understandings of concepts, and then structures opportunities for students

to refine or revise these understandings by posing contradictions, presenting new information,

asking questions, encouraging research, and/or engaging students in inquiries designed to

challenge current concepts.1 With the foundations of Jean Piaget and John Dewey,

Constructivism was able to become a new theory in the education world.2 Moreover, as

technology changed the world of education, it also influenced the theoretical practices.3 With

this history, teachers today use constructivism to create meaning classrooms and scenarios that

engage students and teach them not only material but also the actual process of learning.4

While in the tutoring program, a lesson was developed that engaged my student through a

hands-on activity. To practice the idea of compound words and the fact that words can be

combined to make new words, we did a ripping activity. We first worked together to construct

a list of words that were compound words. To jump start thinking, I had a few examples such as

firework, baseball, and flowerbed. We then wrote each word from on separate slips of paper. To

demonstrate and practice that two words combined make a compound word, Sally and I ripped

each slip of paper where the two words met each other. Then, with all of our separated smaller

words, we tried to make new compound words. Since Sally is a visual learner and a kinesthetic

1
Jacqueline Brooks and Martin Brooks, The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development), ix.
2
What is the history of constructivism, and how has it changed over time?, Educational Broadcasting
Corporation, 2004, accessed 11.29.17.
3
Ibid.
4
Jacqueline Brooks and Martin Brooks, The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development), x.
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learner, we decided assess our knowledge on the new word concepts by drawing out our favorite

new word we created. I found this part of the activity to be very meaningful for the student. For

example, Sally drew out a picture of popcorn as her newly created compound word (picture

attached). This activity ties into constructivism because we built on her preexisting schema of

words and compound words. Moreover, this activity concurs to the benefits of constructivism in

that, Constructivism gives students ownership of what they learn, since learning is based on

students questions and explorations, and often the students have a hand in designing the

assessments as well.5

Additionally, the student and I did another activity that demonstrates building on prior

knowledge. I understand that as a teacher using constructivist theory, I must engage my student

in a way that builds on schema. In an activity to engage with the story Stella Luna, Sally drew

an outline of a bat with three columns to resemble a KWL chart. I asked the student what she

already knew about bats. She already knew and wrote down a bats general size and that they

are nocturnal. Then, I asked Sally what she wanted to learn from the book. She responded

saying that she wanted to know what bats eat. Next, we read the book together (each of us

reading a page at a time). We then went back to our bat drawing, with a little guided help, we

created more ideas, Sally was able to identify when bats hunt, that they sleep upside down, and

that the bats in the book ate fruit. This activity was used to better engage Sally while building

her schema on bat facts. I had realized that Janae needed to activate prior to knowledge to

engage her in the learning process. Moreover, this activity falls into the constructivist theory by

triggering the students innate curiosity about the world and how things work.6

5
What are the benefits of constructivism, Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, accessed 11.29.17.
6
What is constructivism?, Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, accessed 11.29.17.
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In another aspect, the concept of moving to a new city unfolded as an accidental oral

conversation on a text-to-self connection. In the story, the main character Hannah moved to a

new (haunted) home in a new city.7 After reading this chapter, Sally revealed that she had a

similar experience to the main character in that last year she moved from Blacksburg to Salem,

Virginia. In that unexpected moment, I seized the opportunity and we talked about how her

experience was similar to that of the main character. I included this book in a lesson on the basis

that she liked mystery stories. Yet, this book became not only an engaging story, but also a way

text-to-self applied the constructivist concept which included the idea that, When they

continuously reflect on their experiences, students find their ideas gaining in complexity and

power, and they develop increasingly strong abilities to integrate new information.8

Overall, I have found that constructivism is one of the best ways to engage students in the

learning process. So often, while observing classrooms, I have seen students disengaged in the

passive learning system. Yet, when students are challenged with sparked curiosity that was

pulled from prior knowledge, students care more and become a real learner. Moreover, I

completely agree with the idea published by WNET Education in that, With a well-planned

classroom environment, the students learn HOW TO LEARN. For example, using a STEM

Classroom Challenge, such as selling pizza by the slice for profit, is far more engaging and

effective than a disengaging worksheet on fractions. Additionally, through this program at

Willow Elementary, I have found that I need to be a teacher that uses this theory to its fullest

capacity so that my students can go down a fruitful avenue of exploration as life long learners.9

7
Ruby Lois, The Secret Grave (New York: Scholastic, 2017), 1.
8
What is constructivism?, Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, accessed 11.29.17
9
Ibid.
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Bibliography:

Brook, Jacqueline and Martin Brooks. The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria: Association for

Supervision and Curriculum Development). Ix-x.

Lois, Ruby. The Secret Grave (New York: Scholastic, 2017). 1-4.

Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Educational

Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Accessed 11.29.17.