Guest Post: Create Immersive Education With Binge-Teaching

This is the next guest post from Brian Smith, an educator from North Carolina. He’ll be blogging with us over the next few months.

Binge-watching is watching multiple episodes of a show for several hours in a single sitting. This has become a national phenomenon. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and TV series on DVDs and Blu Rays have all increased our opportunities to binge-watch. It’s now commonplace to find a series that we love and feed our obsession for as long as we can keep our eyes open.

My 10-year-old daughter, Ella, has been binge-watching Full House over the last year. Snow days are her favorite times to cuddle up and watch the Tanner girls grow up before her eyes. She just started the season 8 DVD, the last season, and is a little sad that her love affair will soon end. My wife and I just recently started binge-watching an award-winning, colorful Netflix series. Instead of going out for our date night, staying home with take-out has become our new ritual.

What does binge-watching have to do with education? It hit me the other night that binge-teaching is one of my favorite ways to teach. I love those days when I can close my door, flex my schedule and really focus on one topic for an extended period of time.  Just like there are multiple episodes in a binge-watching session, when you binge-teach, you have several different activities around the same topic.

Binge Teaching
In today’s educational climate, where teacher effectiveness is determined on one yearly assessment, subjects like social studies and science often get pushed to the side. There are often not enough hours in the day to teach every subject and anything that is not reading and math continues to get moved to another day. Does that day ever come? If not, then binge-teaching is the answer.

A well-planned unit can oftentimes be condensed into one big day of learning. Instead of spreading out smaller units across several days, you can combine the introduction/discovery activity, read-aloud text, non-fiction reading and different activities into a couple hours of binge-teaching love!

My favorite day of binge-teaching was centered around ice. I planned several days of lessons about ice and reversible change during our penguin unit. The weather was a winter wonderland. One day, while looking at our mason jar ice experiment, a student asked, “What’s the fastest way to melt ice?” From that question, we had an entire ice day (before the Frozen phenomenon). We read books about ice. We made ice in different shapes and documented which shapes melted first. We hypothesized different ways to melt ice. Then we executed selected student hypotheses (light, salt, hairdryer, breaking it apart into smaller pieces). The binge-teaching ended with the class creating a letter to send to interested parties about our ice melting data.

Student engagement skyrockets during a binge-teaching session. Students can learn about a topic and put that knowledge immediately. This creates a sense of excitement that’s contagious to everyone involved.

My other favorite binge-teaching topics:

  • Forces and motion
  • Characteristics of different materials (wood, paper, clay)
  • The life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Different cultures around the world (with each binge-teaching session focusing on one culture)

Tips about binge-teaching:
1.  Keep your kids moving. If you are going to have several texts to share during a binge, use different spaces for fiction and non-fiction read-alouds. Hearing text in a variety of areas can cement learning. Make sure that, if possible, your hands-on activities are located at different places around the room.
2.  Make sure that you are including a couple of different hands-on activities for each binge-teaching session that you plan. Using tactile and kinesthetic learning will improve retention for all students.
3.  Stay focused. Introduce a topic and use binge-teaching to help your students develop a deeper understanding of a topic instead of being exposed to a wide variety of related topics.
4.  Be prepared and have fun. Binge-teaching works best when you have planned it well and are excited about the topic. Your excitement will set the tone for how your class views the topic.

Find me, dad2ella, on Twitter and Pinterest. Share your favorite topics to binge-teach and use #bingeteaching to following along.


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