One idea that has really struck me from both Judith Dodge’s Differentiation in Action and from watching Narda Robbins’ Learning Classroom last year (her incredible blog can be found here) was the idea of an Artifact Box. Officially, an artifact box is described as
- “Find objects that reveal clues about an upcoming unit of study or a reading selection. Place the objects in a bag or box. Reveal the items from the artifact bag or box one at a time. Ask students to share predictions and questions based on the objects shown. Revisit each item during and after the study. Invite students to share the reasons each item was used to preview the unit or article.” — Journey North Teacher, Instructional Strategies
Whether or not I ever find the time as well as all the resources to make an actual Artifact Box — and whether or not I can find an appropriate place to use an Artifact Box in a high school English class — all remain as things I aspire to. In the meantime, however, what I have discovered is that when, for example, I asked students to brainstorm concrete nouns, I hoped to capture the attention of the kinesthetic / hands-on learners with manipulatives or things that are ‘touchable’.
That is to say, when I asked students to brainstorm forms of communication, then I placed an old rotary dial phone on a table (as one of a series of stations). I am finding that if I take the time to find a prop or a real-life example or souvenir, it increases the chances that more students will be engaged. And I think I feel that I am presenting the lesson or information in a bit more engaging way that I did before.