Being in classrooms is something that is just part of my job description…ok let’s get real, it IS my job. So just like an teacher or educator, you want every student to be engaged every single time. Well let’s get realistic, that’s not going to happen 100% of the time. But, I have found there is no better way to engage students than by breaking out the old- fashioned scissors and glue.
When giving large group lessons there will always be those kids that are fidgeting. Research, as well as any reasonable person has figured out that the best way to engage kids’ brains is by having them move their hands. As students put projects together, create crafts, or use familiar materials in new ways, they’re constructing meaning. “Kids learn through all their senses,” says Ben Mardell, PhD, a researcher with Project Zero at Harvard University, “and they like to touch and manipulate things.” But more than simply moving materials around, hands-on activities activate kids’ brains. According to Cindy Middendorf, educational consultant and author of The Scholastic Differentiated Instruction Plan Book (Scholastic, 2009), between the ages of four and seven, the right side of the brain is developing and learning comes easily through visual and spatial activities. The left hemisphere of the brain—the side that’s involved in more analytical and language skills—develops later, around ages 10 and 11.When you combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas of the brain. “The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information.
Using tools such as markers, scissors, and glue in hands-on projects also builds the fine motor skills that children will need to use for functional activities throughout their lives. Simple tasks such as buttoning, tying shoes, and using a key to open a lock all require manual precision. The best way to build that precision is, of course, through practice.Yet practice does not need to be dull and repetitive. Activities such as constructing a miniature city out of recycled materials, or crafting a butterfly’s life cycle using fabric scraps, not only help kids strengthen their hands and minds, they are also fun and engaging.