With many of the new specifications and examinations focussing on a greater volume of content, the challenge for some teachers is how to engage students and ensure deep learning. This is especially the case when curriculum time constraints play their role. One method to support deep learning, as well as engage lower ability, SEND or hard-to-reach students, can be using immersive and experiential learning experiences. This can be achieved using a variety of methods, taking into consideration practicalities and preparation time.
Immersing students can range from simple strategies – such as music playing – or it can encompass the whole-classroom environment with the likes of music, displays and even costumes! Immersing our learners involves placing them into the context or an environment of the topic that is being studied.
For example, English Literature students studying Great War poetry can be immersed in “trenches”. For this, you can turn tables onto their side and play trench sound effects or Great War music. This can be developed with the use of “trench foods” and “trench conditions”, such as plastic rats.
Either separately, or in tandem with immersive learning, experiential learning can also be used. This can provide opportunities for students to touch and feel learning, to sing it or to act it out. My own Master’s research found that using both of these strategies improved memory retention and literacy within a short timeframe, as students had experienced a sensory immersion and related words to things like ‘memorable tastes’. Whilst the ideal experience would involve field trips, this might not always be possible, so it might take a creative approach to using spaces and resources within the school – and imagination, of course!
Further examples of immersive learning include:
Science. Students could immerse themselves as crime scene detectives investigating a murder with experiments including diabetes tests, fingerprint analysis and more.
Art. A classroom could be turned into a time period when a famous artist lived. They can see the world as it was then through this artists eyes.
Further examples of experiential learning include:
MFL. Students could learn the names for different musical instruments and terms if they were immersed in an ‘orchestra’ or ‘talent show’, using instruments borrowed from the Music department.
Geography. Creating a huge ‘Britain’ map using cones and rope on a yard, with students then tasked to use different items to identify where the key mountains and rivers are, and using chalk to name them.
Maths. Weights, measurements, and scale. What better way to remember grams and pounds than baking a mathematically-correct cake with accurate ingredient measurements and the final product being to scale? Sponge cake, pyramids or oblongs!
Biology. Dance the different muscles whilst singing them!