5 Ways to Integrate Active Learning into Your Lectures

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

A new buzzword in the education world is “active learning.” Across the country, colleges are adapting from the lecture model to active learning. Imagine your old college days, sitting in a sea of students and listening to the professor talk for one or two hours.  Were you able to stay awake? Kids these days say they cannot.

Perhaps today’s students have become accustomed to being entertained, but more importantly, maybe it is time to abandon that old “sage on the stage” model, even at the highest educational levels.

Active learning does encompass some of the older teaching strategies, such as “think, pair, share” and experiential learning. At Realityworks, we embraced active learning before it had a name. We researched how students learn and found that hands-on learning beat lectures any day.

We’re not saying that there is no longer any room for lectures. However, an active learning technique called PAUSE can help make lectures more impactful to today’s students.

Active learning strategy: Pausing in lecture

These strategies work towards inserting wait time in lectures for students to reflect on, discuss and apply the ideas that were just presented. They encourage students to engage actively in the lecture, rather than passively taking notes. These strategies also help students to realize what they do and don’t understand about the lecture.

Try this with your students by:

  1. Asking them not take notes as you work through a concept on the board. When you are done, give them five minutes to copy your notes down and discuss the concept with peers. This allows students to process the information and identify what they don’t understand.
  2. Pausing for six to ten seconds between asking a question and calling on a student to respond. Have students do a quick write-up about a concept just covered in lecture (e.g. their understanding, two questions they have about the concept as presented, what they would like to know more about, etc.). Optional: Collect the write-ups to help you better understand what they understood from the lecture, what questions they have and how best to keep them engaged.
  3. Conducting “turn and talks.” Ask peers to talk to each other about what they do and don’t understand and/or share with each other what they wrote down in their notes about a particular concept just covered in lecture. Encourage students to add to their notes from the discussion
  4. Having students apply their understanding of a concept just covered by working with a small group around a huddle board. Optional: Have a few groups share their work and elicit reactions and reviews from other students. Summarize findings and scientific normative explanations.
  5. Having students conduct “think-pair-shares,” polling them to keep their minds engaged in the topic and share their ideas with their peers for greater meaning-making opportunities.

I am grateful to work for a company that focuses directly on providing hands-on learning resources that support active learning. The curriculum we pair with these tools is full of resources and activities that help students to experience something before actually doing it.  Our research shows that when this type instruction is provided, the students’ learning occurs more quickly and at a deeper level.

How are you supporting active learning in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

Take Notes by Hand for Deeper Processing

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

A young man who is close to me recently showed me his college report card, which indicated he had received an A in English. He was previously challenged in that subject, but has always excelled in math and science. I had warned him that without really good writing skills, his future as an engineer would suffer.

I asked him what was different this semester, and he told me that his teacher asked him to take notes by hand, rather than typing them on his computer. It turns out her advice to him is researched-based.

Researchers have found that taking notes on a computer results in “shallow processing.” This means that the student is not processing the information, but merely recording it. Handwriting, they say, allows the student to “listen, digest and summarize.”

Of course, by no means am I suggesting laptops be banned from schools. Many times, teachers use them as a tool to allow students to research information. Sometimes verbatim note-taking is appropriate, but for deep learning, the student needs time – the time it takes to write it down, to take in and retain the information.

Realityworks embraces this research and offers a “RealCare Baby Experience  Workbook” for students engaged in our RealCare Baby programs, as well a s a “My Life Workbook” for our Pregnancy Profile program.  This allows students to access all information inside the program, and to take notes, quizzes and essentially create a simple portfolio of learned activities.

Incorporating tools like workbooks into the classroom can help students reach that deeper level of understanding. As the study stated, “taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,'” and these efforts will foster comprehension and retention.

As we travel through the country this summer make sure to stop by and see us at the different conferences and conventions we’ll be at. We’d love to get your input and feedback!

Fostering Geriatric Sensitivity through Age Simulation

By Kati Stacy

Miranda Kessler, RN-BSN, is the Health Occupations Instructor at Nicholas County Career and Technical Center in West Virginia where she teaches 11th and 12th grade students. The program includes health science courses with the goal of the students obtaining their West Virginia State Nursing Assistant Certification at the end of the two-year program.

“We are in a very poor county with approximately 1000 students in grades 10-12,” said Kessler. “We have seven feeder schools from three counties. Our area is very poor and jobs are incredibly limited. Some students will leave to go to college, but statistics show that the majority of our students won’t leave. It is so important that we reach these students and teach them a skill that can be used to take care of themselves and their families.”

When looking for a product to begin teaching geriatric sensitivity, Kessler chose the RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks because she felt the included components were a great value for the money. Designed for secondary and post-secondary education programs, the Geriatric Simulator allows users to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges.

“When I told my principal about the simulator after seeing literature on it at a conference and he saw how excited I was to use and implement it into my program, he bought in immediately and ordered it for me with no hesitation,” she said. “When the simulator came, he was so excited about it, he was actually the first person to try it! He was amazed by how it changed his normal routine activities and made everything feel much
more physically demanding.”

Kessler thought her students could really get good use out of the Geriatric Simulator and learn from the experience of wearing it.

“I wanted to be able to teach my students to be more understanding and empathetic with the aging process once we made it into our clinical rotation at the local nursing home,” reflected Kessler. “I wanted them to understand why the residents moved so slowly and I wanted them to learn to be patient and kind while working with them.”

Students in Kessler’s class are introduced to the Geriatric Simulator during their unit on growth and development and the aging process. During note taking time, they dress in the suit, which includes a weight vest (adjustable, one-size-fits-most), ankle weights, wrist weights. elbow restraints, knee restraints, gloves and a cervical collar. They also wear the glasses to impair their vision while note taking to see how it inhibits them.

“Initially, the reaction is, “This can’t be that bad,” or they laugh and giggle while gettingdressed in the simulator,” said Kessler. “After wearing the suit for the recommended 20-30 minutes though, their feelings generally start to change.”

Kessler said she sees the students becoming tired and their actions becoming slower and more purposeful throughout that time.

“Many of the students say that they didn’t realize it would be so fatiguing,” she said. “I’ve never had a student complain after wearing the simulator though; I’ve always only had positive comments.”

“After wearing the suit,” Kessler continued, “I try to have a one-on-one conversation with each student and discuss the experience. How did you feel before and after? How did your body respond? How did your breathing change? What did you find most challenging? What did you do in an attempt to compensate for your deficits?”

Kessler currently has one Geriatric Simulator that her classes have been using since September, but she said if her enrollment continues to grow she may look into purchasing another if funding becomes available. She is also looking into adding Realityworks’ new Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit to her program through a grant she is writing. The kit features wearable components which provide users with age-related sensory changes to help with understanding common aging changes including: hearing impairment, geriatric arthritis and geriatric tremor.

“It is so important to get these kids to understand the pains and aches that our elderly generation feel every day, so that they can provide better care for our aging population,” reflected Kessler. “Even more than the physical aspect of aging, the mental and emotional status must be considered. These students can learn so much from the generation that we are now caring for – they can gain valuable life experience if they just slow down and listen and most importantly, respect the geriatric population.”

Recognize National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month 2015 in Your Classroom

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager

When conducting lessons on pregnancy and pregnancy prevention, students need to consider the short- and long-term consequences of having babies and recognize the responsibilities associated with being pregnant and having a newborn. May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, and a great opportunity to discuss these important topics in your classroom. Here are a few ideas for recognizing this month in your classroom.

Teen Pregnancy

  • Have students to research and familiarize themselves with the resources available in their community for pregnant teens. They could create a Pinterest board of their findings to present to the class.
  • Have students keep a journal of one whole day and night of activities, taking photos and even recording video journal entries. The next day, ask students how being pregnant would affect their daily routines. Have them look at their daily activities and highlight what they would probably have to dramatically change or what would be impossible to do. Break students into small groups for discussion on the implications of being a parent and what would change if they were teen parents today. If you have the Pregnancy Profile Simulator, this would also be a good time to have students try it on and feel what it is like to be a pregnant teen.
  • Are you using RealCare Baby in your program? If so, consider taking the Caregiver Journal Handout online by creating a Facebook Group for your class and having students post their journal entries to the Facebook wall for all to read and discuss afterwards in class. You could also incorporate video journal entries here.


Birth Control

  • Discussion of birth control methods is an important part of educational efforts. You may be able to get free handouts or pamphlets from your state Department of Health, Maternal and Child Health Services or local public health agency. Integrate Pinterest into this activity to engage your students by creating a template board for each student or small group, then have them pin their findings to the board for further discussion.
  • Consider distributing RealCare Babies to students in class. Program the simulators to cry randomly, requiring the students to cope with the crying infants while trying to take notes and listen. Conclude all of this with a discussion of the difficulty of being a student and a teen parent at the same time

College vs. Full-Time Employment

  • Show videos about teen parents discussing their desire to further their education but having to work full-time jobs instead. Create a YouTube channel and playlist for the videos you find relating to teen parents speaking about the impact that a pregnancy has had on their life goals. Have class discussions about how this would make you feel, and what this would do to you mentally.
  • Look at jobs that you can get without a college degree and wages from those jobs versus jobs that can be attained with college degrees, and those wages. Discuss life aspirations versus life necessities.
  • Have students take a piece of paper and write down the top 10 goals that they have for their life. Break students into small groups. Each student should present their list to the group and the group should identify how they think each goal would be impacted if they would get pregnant now.

For more information and ideas on National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, visit the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy website.

Help Your Students Explore Infant-Related Careers with this Free Lesson

By Denise Bodart, RealCare Product Manager

We all know how important it is to prepare students for college and career; our increasingly competitive global economy demands it. One way to help ensure your students are college-and career-ready is to provide them with opportunities to explore career pathways relates to your program – and we can help. Our free Using the RealCare Program for Career Exploration curriculum contains five hands-on career exploration lessons, one of which uses RealCare® Baby as a springboard for discussion of infant-related careers.


Our free “Exploration of Careers Related to Infants in Education and Human Services” lesson uses RealCare Baby as a springboard into the discussion of infant-related careers.

If you already use RealCare Baby in your program, you know how powerful it is for participants to experience living the life of a teen parent. While participants quickly come to realize that being a parent is a full-time job, you can also use the simulation experience as a springboard for discussion of careers that involve working with infants.

The Exploration of Careers Related to Infants in Education and Human Services lesson includes career cluster definitions; opportunities to identify, research and explore career opportunities; presentation options and more. We recommend concluding this lesson with a career panel discussion, which you can coordinate by inviting local childcare professionals, human services professionals, social workers, adoption coordinators or program associates to share their professional experiences and the impact they have on the life of an infant.

Download this free lesson or the entire curriculum by clicking here, then let us know how you plan to use it in the comments!

6 Reasons to Download our New Employability Skills Curriculum

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager

Soft skills are necessary for getting, keeping and performing well on a job – according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey, 77% of employers believe that the less tangible soft skills associated with one’s personality were just as important as hard, or technical, skills. Across the country, schools are being mandated to make their students college- and career-ready, and part of that career-readiness is the teaching of employability skills such as time management, organization, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership. After all, finding workers who have employability or job-readiness skills that help them fit into and thrive in the work environment is a real challenge for current employers.

That’s why we are excited to offer a FREE employability skills curriculum to help teach these important skills, which you can download at no cost by clicking here. Our six-lesson RealCareer Employability Skills Program can be used as a stand-alone unit on soft skills, or as a supplement to an existing career exploration program.


Realityworks’ six-lesson RealCareer Employability Skills Program can be used as a stand-alone unit on soft skills, or as a supplement to an existing career exploration program.

Aren’t convinced yet? Here are 6 reasons you should download this new curriculum for your program:

Reason #6: This curriculum will help your students understand time management at work. Lesson 6, “Time Management at Work,” covers the benefits of what improved time management, practical information on identifying and overcoming barriers to time management, and more!

Reason #5: This curriculum will help your students use technology in the workplace. Lesson 5, “Using Technology in the Workplace,” explores the impact of technology in the work place and gives hands-on work with technical skills by creating PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, using the Internet and more.

Reason #4: This curriculum will help your students learn to use critical thinking skills. Lesson 4, “Problem Solving and Critical Thinking,” discusses the steps to solving a problem effectively through hands-on practice with critical thinking skills used in the workplace.

Reason #3: This curriculum will teach your students how to utilize teamwork in the workplace. Lesson 3, “Effective Teamwork in the Workplace,” presents a series of teamwork tasks versus individual solutions and shows how effective teamwork skills can benefit the workplace.

Reason #2: This curriculum will teach your students effective communication skills. Lesson 2, “Effective Communication Skills,” provides opportunities to practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills, as well as examine how we communicate with family and friends, employers and colleagues.

Reason #1: This curriculum will help your students prepare for job interviews. Lesson 1, “Preparing for a Job Interview,” teaches the stages of a job interview and specific tips for preparing for a job interview including standard questions to and writing a proper thank-you letter.

The importance of soft skills in the workplace cannot be underestimated. After all, your student’s technical skills might get them in the door of a future employer, but their soft skills will help them maintain that job and turn it into a career. Click here to access our full RealCareer Employability Skills Program or individual lessons. 

How do you plan to use this curriculum? Let us know in the comments!

Celebrate World Prematurity Day with a Free Classroom Handout

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager

Did you know that every year around the world, 15 million babies are born too soon? In fact, the March of Dimes reports that premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death each year worldwide. To raise awareness about premature births and how they can be prevented, the March of Dimes promotes the observation of World Prematurity Day on November 17 each year.

There are many serious problems and risks involved in the development of a premature infant, or an infant who is born before 37 weeks gestation. Babies who survive a preterm birth often face increased risks of health issues like breathing problems, cerebral palsy, cognitive disabilities and other challenges. For some families, preterm birth can involve neonatal or infant loss.


The curriculum that is designed to accompany our infant simulators addresses prenatal health and decision-making through a variety of topics and activities.

An important part of Realityworks’ mission is to improve the human condition around the globe. One way we achieve this is by enabling educators to show the probable outcomes of behaviors and choices, like pregnancy and prenatal care. The RealCare® curriculum that accompanies our infant simulators addresses prenatal health and decision-making through a variety of topics and activities that can be used in child development or parenting education classes, including this simple, easy-to-understand list of items to avoid while pregnant.

After all, the best way to ensure a healthy, full-term baby is to make good decisions regarding your own health. This list provides a good reminder of potentially harmful substances to avoid during pregnancy. It could also be used as a springboard to a more in-depth discussion of other “non-healthy” substances or habits to avoid during pregnancy.

Click here to download your own copy of this handout, which can be used to supplement a discussion of World Prematurity Day in your classroom.

Additional information on World Prematurity Day can be found on the March of Dimes website here.

Highlights from the RealCare Curriculum: Practicing Refusal Skills Through Group Dialogue

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager

In addition to offering powerful experiential learning products, RealityworksRealCare product line also offers effective, standards-based curriculum. In this blog series, we highlight various activities, lessons and free downloads from each product’s curriculum to help ensure that our product users are making the most of their tools.

For this post, we’re focusing on lesson 1.4 from our Healthy Choices: Relationship, Sexuality and Family Planning curriculum, which focuses on communication in relationships. Just like any skill, you need to actively practice communication to become proficient, and the free activity highlighted below was designed to help students acquire the refusal and communication skills needed to respond to sexual pressure.


Like any skill, you need to actively practice communication to become proficient, and our Healthy Choices curriculum includes lessons that help students practice refusal and communication skills.

Before commencing with this activity in your classroom, be sure to explain to your students that while they may be motivated to abstain from sex, it can be difficult to follow through with the decision without practice negotiating for abstinence. This activity provides an opportunity to start developing the vocabulary and skills needed to communicate with their partner about abstaining from risky sexual behavior.

Download the Lines and Responses – Refusal Skills handout here, then follow these steps:


Responding to Lines Activity

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 people.
  2. Have each group assign a group recorder.
  3. Explain that each group will be given a sheet of paper that features a short scenario about two people trying to negotiate a potential sexual situation. Each group is to read the scenario together, then work together to create the next line in the dialogue. When that line has been added, the group is to pass their sheet to the next group. Each group will create the following dialogue line until the original sheet returns to each group.
  4. Distribute one Lines and Responses sheet to each group, then give groups a few minutes to develop their dialog responses and pass their sheets along.
  5. When all sheets have gone around the room and are back with the original group, have two members of each group read the dialog aloud.
  6. Conduct a class discussion around each group’s dialogue and their opinions of each person’s response to sexual pres­sure.

Be sure to review the additional scenarios included in the curriculum to provide your students with additional practice, or encourage them to make up their own scenarios.

How do you engage your students in such an important discussion topic? We’d love to hear your ideas. Share them with us in the comments!