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I agree that all four of these methods in some sort of mixture help students learn. As a former middle school English teacher, I found that physical activity helped also when combined with traditional methods. For any sort of SHORT note taking, I used different colors to help my students see the important points in a 10 minute presentation. In grammar or sentences or how to change the emphasis in sentences, we used movable words I had created and laminated. As they worked in groups, they could move around on the floor which helped them focus. The students often tried two or three different ways and then had to decide on the best one to present to the class. Sometimes, I simply had one of my ADHD students walk outside in the hallway for two minutes so that they could settle down and concentrate. Work was shared with the class, students learned that it was safe to make a mistake, and we could then work from the positive of what was done correctly rather than what was done wrong. So the long answer is that all four are important and the fifth about movement helps especially in middle school.
I agree that all four are necessary to learn. One cannot learn if they don't listen or read. Teachers cannot assess if students do not speak or write. They simply work together.
I agree with much of what has already been said, especially with the importance of modeling. More broadly, I like to use the Socratic method -- asking students leading questions about material we have already discussed and trying to get them to figure out answers on their own. Lecturing is something I've never done or wanted to do. I highly recommend the "asking leading questions" approach.
No matter what skill I want students to be able to work on, I always MODEL the skill first. If I want them to write, I show them samples and break down the process into smaller steps. If they are going to read critically, I will read aloud and stop along the way at places where the students should be stopping in order to make generalizations, ask questions, note literary devices, make predictions etc. Students can learn a new skill when they see that skill in action.
To me, too, all four are the essence of learning, no matter what the course is. This is not simply a matter of learning styles, a theory which has been largely discounted, by the way, but also a matter of preparing students to engage outside the classroom. I, too, like hands-on learning, but if students cannot comprehend what they read, articulate their understanding in writing and aloud, or take in what others have to say, they can never get to the point where they can use learning to take action.
As an English teacher, I like to mix up all four of these modes. I try to stress the writing aspect most, and I do lecture a bit in between my own reading and the reading by students. Discussion is certainly important and is probably the best source of understanding by the students. Sadly, writing gets most of the class time (as well as homework), since, in Florida, FCAT writing scores are deemed most important by most administrators.
I have always learned best by doing, so the best teachers for me were the ones who made the topic substantial instead of abstract. Lectures don't do much for me, and although I read well, I don't always keep the information. I would say the best teaching method is a guided, hands-on demonstration of principles.
I would say a mix would be essential to any good classroom. Since everyone learns differently, it would be best to maximize learning so that you can get everyone interested. For example, an English lesson might consist (for a 60 minute period) of 10 minutes quiet reading, 10 minutes introducing the lesson and explaining what's about to happen, 30 minutes doing whatever is set (for example, an essay about Hamlet) and 10 minutes reflecting or explaining what next lesson will be about.
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