—by Gerald Tafoya , Golden Apple Fellow—


I use experiential activities throughout the school year in our classroom, however this is especially true during the first couple of weeks of school. These activities help to establish a tone and demonstrate expectations I will refer to throughout the year.   To the casual observer, it may look like I am playing games with the students. In reality, it is the cornerstone of the classroom. Rules, attitudes, and expectations are all covered during these so called “games”. Not only are they are fun for the students, they have a purpose. The students learn to be respectful and listen to each other. They share ideas and try each other’s ideas out. When one idea does not work, they move on and try another idea. They work together to be successful. When they are successful they are screaming, and yelling in delight. When they are successful, they get a task that might be slightly more difficult. It is okay if they struggle and have troubles and must be reminded of the goal and the expectations. They struggle, they learn from their mistakes, and are proud when they accomplish the task. I consider that a good math lesson.

One the many benefits of these type of activities is that I learn about my students quickly. I figure out which students are shy, who the leaders are, the clowns, and the thinkers. This helps me to see student’s strengths and how to incorporate those strengths into the classroom structure. This helps later in the school year when pairing up students for certain assignments. Matching students by ability levels is useful and in some cases, pairing a stronger student with a weaker student can help both.

When using the experiential concept, it is easy to turn simple math concepts into an activity that the students can relate to. Drawing a coordinate grid the size of the parking lot and graphing a figure in chalk is how the games can then translate into math.

After an extended break or when the students are burned out, I use the activities to refocus the class. This gives them a chance to “play” and still be reminded of the goals and expectations. The students regroup, take a deep breath, and are ready to go at it again.

These activities have students working together, sharing ideas, listening, discussing ideas, and problem solving. That is what I want my students to do all year long. If throughout the course of the year, or even a lesson, my students can remember these concepts, the lesson will be successful.

Introducing Experiential Education; and how it may be used in the classroom:

The Experiential Cycle Graphic

Introduce several activities that would allow students to get moving, thinking and talking.

This would be a very active and hands on presentation.

Activities such as:

  • Touch Blue
  • Number Twister
  • I Got the Beat
  • Beanbag Math
  • Wolf Wolf
  • Dice games -High Number
  • Balloon games

Also introduce some Technology games that maybe useful:

  • Skunk
  • Darts
  • Paths to Ten

The activities would change somewhat depending on grade level. Activities are chosen to allow teachers to see the students work together and problem solve.