by Mike McHugh
All teachers, including home educators, need assistance as they seek to establish a point of contact with their students. For this reason, most instructors recognize their need to employ at least some kind of teaching aids as they go about their duties. Sooner or later, however, these same teachers often come to the place where they ask; “What teaching aids are the most effective for my particular situation?”
The primary purpose for aids is to help teachers make a stronger impression upon students as they transmit subject matter, and, in the process, enable students to gain a clearer understanding of the topic at hand. Not all aids are of the same type, however, and although most take the form of a visual aid, some are of a different nature entirely. Let’s review and consider some of the most common teaching helps that are available to teachers today.
Maps, Globes, or Graphs – These visual aids, when clearly linked to a specific lesson, can be of immense value to teachers as they seek to capture the interest of their students. As with all well designed visual aids, they help instructors to be able to increase their children’s comprehension of facts through the eye-gate. Even small objects, such as a scroll or a model of an antique automobile, can help learners to stay focused on the lesson before them. A story is told of a Bible teacher who, while teaching her students about how Mary anointed Jesus in Bethany, opened a bottle of perfume in the midst of her students until the room was filled with its odor. Not surprisingly, her students had no difficulty remembering this lesson for years to come. It is an established fact that when instructors employ objects to stimulate their students’ senses of sight, sound, or smell, they help to increase their interest in and comprehension of subject matter.
Although the wise and skillful use of language will ever be the mainstay of how teachers communicate, words do have their limitations. Descriptive words alone, at least in some cases, will fail to effectively transmit information to students unless they are enhanced by a relevant visual aid.
Pictures, Video/DVD, or Multi-media Internet Resources – Like it or not, the world in which students live and move today is loaded with flashy images and superficial messages. Particularly with the emergence of the internet, students have become more and more accustomed to receiving information in a fast-paced, colorful fashion. This fact, at least to some degree, has made it more difficult for instructors to capture and maintain a student’s attention simply through the use of a lecture.
Although home school parents would do well to incorporate the use of multimedia resources and pictures on a regular basis, care must be taken to ensure that students do not become so enraptured with the visual images they encounter that they end up forgetting key aspects of their lesson. Visual aids, in other words, must never be permitted to distract students from the goal of a particular lesson.
Special Hands-on Projects – Some of the most beneficial visual aids are those which are developed by the student’s own hands. Youngsters love to build things, and wise instructors will direct their students to construct items that relate to the subject they are studying. Geography teachers, for example, could encourage their students to build a relief map of the area that they are covering in their lesson. This type of project will help children to better understand the physical features, (mountains, valleys, etc.) of the terrain they are studying.
Teacher’s Manual – This teaching tool, although not designed to be a visual aid, can nevertheless be of help to instructors. Teacher’s manuals provide detailed lesson plans and helpful advice to educators. Such aids provide teachers with valuable information from experienced instructors concerning the best way to approach their lessons. Although teachers can benefit from suggestions that are given by seasoned educators, they must not permit themselves to be a slave to the recommendations contained in a teacher’s manual. General advice that is given in a teacher’s manual, must often be modified or personalized by educators in order to enable it to meet the needs of their students.
Blackboard, Whiteboard, or Flannelgraph – Home educators can incorporate additional visual stimulation into their teaching routine by utilizing simple things such as a blackboard, or a flannelgraph. Standard size blackboards or whiteboards are often impractical for most home schoolers due to expense and space limitations. It may be more practical for parents to obtain and use smaller versions of blackboards/whiteboards that can be set on an easel or laid on a student’s desk. Flannelgraphs, sometimes called flannelboards, are felt covered panels that have colorful felt characters that can be placed on them to create various scenes. Many companies sell the felt characters, as well as the interchangeable felt boards or panels, to teachers who are providing instruction in the subjects of Bible, creation science, or ancient history. Parent educators can locate and obtain felt board materials on the internet by doing a search under the word “flannelgraph”.
As previously stated, not all teaching aids will be equally effective in every instructional setting. Particularly in the case of home educators, some of the traditional methods of incorporating visual aids into the teaching process may need to be modified or scaled down in some respect. Regardless of where an instructor interacts with students, however, the key is for each teacher to become intimately acquainted with all of the tools that can help them to enhance their ability to transmit subject matter to students. Those teachers that make the effort to utilize the helpful resources that are available to them in an appropriate and personalized manner, will discover that they are in a better position to communicate with their students.
Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh
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