Planning a Discovery Learning Experience

  • select an activity. To begin pick an activity that is relatively short so that follow-up attempts are easier to predict and plan for. Select a subject with which you are personally familiar and comfortable. Also in the beginning it is often best to choose an activity that does not have just one correct answer. Role-playing, creating sculptures, observing characteristics of objects, or searching for or classifying similar items all work well.
  • gather materials. Remember to have enough materials for each learner to repeat the activity at least once.
  • stay focused. Avoid learning tangents that may be interesting but will keep the learner from finishing the project, unless they are truly of great curiosity and value. Instead take notes concerning the new interest to follow-up on once the initial activity is completed.
  • use caution. While the idea of discovery learning is for the instructor to step back and observe allowing the child to work independently, be sure that safety is observed. Activities such as cooking and cutting should always be supervised by an adult and experimenting with magnets is nice unless an important video or cassette tape is ruined.
  • plan extra time. Understand that children working on their own will most likely take longer than they would with an adult moving them from step to step. Also be sure to plan time for repeated activities in case there is a failure or other reason to repeat the activity.
  • record process and results. Include in the activity a requirement for older children to record their procedure and results. For young children guide, assist, or model record keeping.
  • discuss and review. After and activity is completed and before it is repeated a second time (if needed), discuss the activity and its outcome with the child. Use the records which were kept to assist during this step. Once the activity has been analyzed, record any observations or mistakes.
  • try again. Have the child repeat the activity if necessary. Encourage her to take into account what was done and the discussion that occurred. Allow her to use any records that were kept to assist her in successfully completing the activity. Give assistance and guidance as necessary.
  • plan for more discovery learning activities. Think over how this activity worked for the child. As you plan more discovery activities take the answers to these questions into consideration. What went well? What could have gone better? How can any problem areas be corrected or alleviated?