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Learning is an important unit for Psychology. Students are introduced to classical conditioning, Ivan Pavlov, Pavlov’s dog, BF Skinner, operant conditioning, as well as many other concepts and terms.
One major goal of some high school courses is to personalize the concepts with reflective writing assignments. The “learning experiences” activity is one of my favorite activities of the year. It is one I have been using for several years and most students really seem to enjoy it. We start this activity after our quiz on classical conditioning.
Step 1 Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul Reading packet. If at all possible, it is great to have a classroom set of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Students really seem to make a connection with the stories. The books can be used a few times during the year as an activity. It also is great to allow students to read when they finish an activity early and it desirable to have the class quiet, as in the case of an exam day.
I have selected the readings that I feel are most beneficial to the students. The stories include a variety of lessons. Not all students will make a connection with each story, however the variety of stories should make it possible for every student to make some type of connection.
The chosen stories are in a typed packet with an introduction page explaining the activity. I keep a classroom set of 35 packets.
I found links to most of the stories in my packet: The Cost of Gratefulness, The Eternal Gifts, Socrates, Egg Lessons, Mrs. Virginia DeView, Where are you?, I Try to Remember, A Long Walk Home, Sparky, I Am…., If I knew, Please Hear What I Am Not Saying, The Wedding Ring, Challenge Days
Step 2 Written Reflections
There is a worksheet that goes along with the reading packet. The students are required to write reflections (not summaries) about the stories. These will be collected and graded. This is largely an effort grade. Some students may not complete all the stories because of varying reading abilities. These students are not penalized on their grade.
The reflections keep the students focused. As the students read, I am at the back of the class observing.
Step 3 Personal “Learning Experiences” Reflections Using the reading as a guide, the students will compose a personal learning experience. These narratives are taken from their experiences so far in life. Some topics students seem to focus on are personal loss of a family member, experiences with friends, family challenges, divorce, and many other unique examples.
Once the typed narrative is complete, the students hand in 2 copies – one with a name on it to be graded, and nameless copy to be shared with the class. (This is completely optional as some students may write about topics that are too personal to be shared even if it is anonymous. Most students opt to share a copy with the class.)
Step 4 “Learning Experiences” Reflections: “current year” Edition Once I receive all the essays, I make a few random piles depending on the number of students. I create a cover page with the year and packet number. I photocopy enough packets for the class. If I have 30 students and 5 packets, I will make 6 copies of each packet. I keep these packets for future years and always have previous years packets for the students to read too. (The packets are great to exhibit to parents on open house as a sample of student work – I NEVER share the work of current students at an open house.)
Once the copies are made, I share with the class. I usually begin the reading period after a test on chapter 2. Students finish tests at different times, so the packets allow the class to remain quiet as all students complete the exam.
The reading period has been one of the most rewarding activities in my class. Prior to completing this activity for the first time, I was very apprehensive. Would teenagers be willing to share their experiences with their peers?
Happily many elected to participate. I created 5 different packets that first year and allotted one class period to allow the students to read. When I handed out the packets, you could hear a pin drop. The students asked for additional days to read the packets and a few even asked to bring a packet home.
After the reading sessions, create a writing prompt for your students to provide some feedback for you. The prompt could be as simple as – “Evaluate the usefulness of this activity. What were the most beneficial aspects?” I am sure you will receive some very positive and surprising responses.
* I teach several sections of Psychology, so I combine all the stories together and create a few different packets. The more students who hand in an anonymous copy the more effective the activity. With only one section, sometimes it might be best not to share with the current class. The following year you could share with much less fear of students knowing who was in your class.