Stimulating student’s ownership of their education through simulated real-world activities.

by Anthony Grisillo

All Grades


Students need to have a reason for what they are doing. There’s nothing worse than hearing “why are we doing this?” That’s why I like to offer students activities in the classroom where the reason for doing it is self-evident.

I call these lessons “simulated real-world activities.” They can be used as:

-An introduction to the unit and to get students to have buy-in right away;

-One piece of a unit that simulates some activity that they might do in the real world; or

-The entire experience of the unit.

I truly believe that the best types of lessons are the ones that you prepare intensely, but when you start it, you can step back and help facilitate student learning. And if designed correctly, these lessons have embedded in them, steps that are not solely part of a simulation – they are authentic processes of learning and problem solving. For example, the research they do is rooted in the process of carefully examining sources; formulating a budget requires the same procedures as a budget that is created for anything.

Using simulated real world lessons provides learning that is grounded in real life while working within the structural limitations of school.


What I did well…

During this workshop I demonstrated effectively how to stimulate student thinking by using real world examples.  Holding a cup of water in your hand that is potable and gradually adding small amounts of materials allows students to see directly how it all adds up to makes something that is heavily contaminated.  Experiences like these, fosters critical thinking and awareness, lighting that fire for learning.

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

I wish I had better materials at my disposal as well as access to my model whale along with a bit more time.  Doing the simulation in such a compressed way, using items I could scrounge together, didn’t allow participants to go through the experience in a more thoughtful manner. 

I still want to grow in this practice by…

I am continually growing this practice.  I’m always looking for new and unique experiences to simulate real-world learning.   It is a constant challenge to find that perfect blend of effective activity that stimulates thinking with practicality allowing for completion within time constraints and materials needed.  I really want to take this idea and bring it to a point where the learning leaves the classroom and school, reaching out into the community and world.


About Anthony Grisillo

Anthony Edward Grisillo is the 2014 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and recipient of a 2014 Making a Difference Award. Originally a Pharmacy major...

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