Bottom Up Learning Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Bottom up learning is the kind of learning people do when they start by focusing on the details of language, such as words and grammatical structures. This lesson offers activities that will help your students improve their bottom up learning skills.

Learning From the Bottom Up

Are you trying to help your students develop a wider range of learning skills and strategies? One thing you might consider is having them learn about bottom up listening and processing. Bottom up learning happens when students focus on words, structures, and linguistic forms, instead of starting with meaning. When students learn from the bottom up, they gain an appreciation for the details of language and are more likely to attend to nuances of grammar and vocabulary.

Getting students who naturally look for the big picture to focus on bottom up strategies can be difficult, and it is helpful to have some activities you can repeat with students again and again over time. Each of the activities in this lesson will help your students become bottom up listeners and learners.

Visual Activities

Here, you will find activities that will appeal to visual learners who are learning to think from the bottom up.

Draw the Word, Trace the Word

Sometimes, just paying attention to the structure of letters, words and sentences will get students to form a closer relationship to language. Speak a word out loud to your students, and ask them to draw a picture not of the word's meaning, but of the shape the word would take on a page. You can also do this with phrases or whole sentences. Then, have students trace the word several times, speaking it out loud as they trace its shape.

Find a Detail

This is a good activity to help your students learn to look for specific details. Begin by giving them a complicated picture to look at, and ask them to look closely and try to find a specific detail, such as a cloud or a pair of glasses. Then, give students a sentence or paragraph to look at. Now, ask them to search for a language-related detail, such as a comma or a word that starts with the letter 'a'. Talk about what it feels like to search for these kinds of details.

Tactile Activities

These activities will appeal to learners who like to use their hands and bodies as they practice bottom up strategies.

Sky Writing

Speak a sentence out loud to your students, or have them read a sentence. Then, ask them to use their hands to trace the same sentence in the sky. As they trace the outline of the letters, they should also speak the sentence out loud and think about the words, punctuation, and grammar it contains. You can vary the complexity of the sentence to meet your students' abilities and needs.

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