January 2007, Volume 7, Issue 1
Using Context to Teach

Adults learn in context (actually, so do children, we are finding out). We've talked a lot about the workplace context, but there are so many other environments! For example, art creates an ideal context for many adult students who don't integrate information through logical and linear approaches. I know a math teacher who has had incredible success, with male and female students alike, teaching math through quilting. Another has a great time using mandalas for integrating math concepts. The list goes on, only limited by our imaginations.

I know a shop teacher whose students built benches for the city park after they negotiated issues in writing and in person with City Council and other community stakeholders. A politically active writing teacher has students write editorials and letters to government officials to make changes in her community. An art teacher has her students create murals for non-profits showing their cultural heritage. There are many contexts. Following are some links you might enjoy.



Art and Culture

Get Started with http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/adulted/lessons.html and look through the context lesson plans developed for adult students. Among some wonderful lessons is the following:

http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/adulted/lessons/lesson54.html - Area Art: Ethnomathematics For The Twenty-First Century - Grade level: Adult (ABLE, GED), Intermediate - "In this self-guided lesson, learners will review a variety of geometric shapes and ways of calculating area, and begin to understand how patterns can give us insight into art and culture. Many people take the basic principles of geometry for granted; yet the rules for solving problems in geometry can often help us solve real-world challenges. In fact, contractors, architects and artists often use these rules to create their work. As part of the PBS mission to 'inform, inspire and educate,' this lesson seeks to promote cultural awareness and competence, examining specific patterns in Islamic art, promoting cultural literacy and making connections to math content." On this site, you will find several links and great handouts for adults, including a great little interactive site, where students at any level can create their own quilts online by dragging little triangles (http://www.aghines.com/Quilt/interactive/grid/grid.htm)

Mandalas, Sand Paintings and the Medicine Wheel

http://www.mandalaproject.org/education/main.html - "The Mandala Project supports an integrated approach to education and is a proponent of the Multiple Intelligences Theory developed by Howard Gardner. Building on proven studies showing that successful learning involves the integration of both art and academic content, the project has developed art workshops that can teach any subject, from geometry to history." The examples are from schools but the ideas are very adult!

http://www.jyh.dk/indengl.htm#Circles - Mandalas explained.

http://www.earthmandalas.com/how/index.html - a step by step tutorial on how to create mandalas from digital photos. Click on each step in the left column.

http://www.teachervision.fen.com/classroom-management/lesson-plan/6041.html A complete lesson plan. Students will construct and illustrate a mandala that reflects their personalities and ideas about the world.

http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Canopy/1835/wheel.html - The Native American medicine wheel explained. Click on any of the stones and get its meaning. I strongly suggest that you turn off your volume as the sound repeats every time you return to the original graphic. There are many lessons available and to be created on the medicine wheel.

http://www.newton.mec.edu/Angier/DimSum/Mandala%20Lesson.html - Create a sand painting following instructions.


http://www.musicalenglishlessons.org/index-ex.htm - If you dance to the rhythm of language, feast on this site: Musical English Lessons International, England. Huge list of links on how to teach grammar to ESL students through songs. Love it! (I also advocate teaching fractions through music notations. It's a perfect vehicle for some.)


http://www.themlc.org/compskills.html - From the Minnesota Literacy Council, check out the great list of lesson plans and resources for teaching computer skills to adults. The page includes lesson plans for teaching ESL students computer skills from A-Z, CASAS computer skills competencies, Mousearobics and Mouse Skills, and several other resources.

http://imet.csus.edu/imet1/peshette/mandalas/ - Instructions with student samples of creating mandalas on the computer.


http://www.medtropolis.com/VBody.asp - Check out a virtual body, in Spanish or English.

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/education/science_projects.html - Energy science projects for all levels. How would you like to build a better pyramid?

http://www.citizensci.com/ - Citizen science projects for adults. This one is on birding. Scroll down the whole page.

http://www.sciencebuddies.org/mentoring/project_ideas/home_Soc.shtml - Sociology project ideas. Not necessarily for adult students, but very relevant to adult behavior as well.

http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol11N1/ScienceProject.html - (from Science Education Program Volume 11, Number 1, January/February 1996) "Projects Make Science Interesting For Children and Adults: NIDA's Science Education Program is increasing its efforts to show children and adults that science can be interesting and useful in making good choices about health matters such as drug abuse. The Institute is funding one project to develop a low-literacy drug education model program for adult literacy programs and another to produce colorful classroom materials about abused drugs for middle school students. NIDA's Science Education Program supported the production of The Brain Book to help low-literate adults learn more about how the brain works.

http://csmp.ucop.edu/csp/ScienceBook/index.html - Science Books Written by English Learners and Their Teachers - Instructions were "For your final project you will collaborate with an English Learner to develop his/her writing skills and to produce a children’s book.  The book and its development should reflect what you have learned about scaffolding science content for English Learners."


http://oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/education/projects/webunits/math/sport.html created by Mary Beth Indelicato, a former Education student at the University of Richmond. She completed the original version of this document as a project for a class on integrating technology across the curriculum during the spring semester of 1998.

http://www.freemathhelp.com/sports-math.html - averages and percentages in competition.

To find hundreds of great links that will connect to your students, simply "Google" entries that appeal, and something wonderful will show up. Why not teach grammar through community issues, as one article encouraged? Why not teach reading and writing through science, art or history? So much learning yet to come, so little time!


Rendezvous is just around the corner, February 7-9. I hope you are signing up for many sessions! If you want to learn a great tool to expand your and your students' learning portals, you might drop in to learn the many applications of Excel on Thursday afternoon. More than a spreadsheet for finances, it is a superb, interactive learning tool. We won't have a lab, but you can bring your laptop and hum along.

If I don't see you then, I'll catch you later if you would like a Go to Meeting workshop delivered at your site! Just contact me.

See you at Rendezvous 2007 in February!

Send me ideas for future issues!

CONTACT ME: leecy@swadulted.com