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Posted by on in Student Engagement


The picture you see above is of my students and myself after I received a technology grant, which I used to purchase Chromebooks so that my students can learn using 21st century technology.

I already have 21st century technology. Now, I am on a mission to bring a 21st century learning space to my chemistry classroom. Traditional High School classrooms are gray, gloomy, boring, and most strikingly outdated.

About 3 months ago, I started a movement "Starbucks My Classroom," which quickly caught on social media and many educators in the US and abroad are now transforming their classrooms.

I believe that sitting in one place for close to an hour at a time is detrimental to student learning and health. Getting rid of the traditional seating you see in the picture above and creating a flexible seating space will allow for more movement, which research says is not only healthier, but also more conducive to learning. Student attention span peaks around 8-10 minutes, so allowing and promoting movement provides the necessary short brain breaks that lead to better focus and comprehension.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

colored pencils

Warning: Reading this post may leave you feeling compelled to talk to people around you about what you just learned. This tip in the Tools of Imagination Series is about the great power of mental imagery for learning and for making all concepts meaningful and memorable to students.

As you well know, mental imagery has indisputable cultural and historical significance. The great cultural stories handed down by our ancestors created emotionally charged images in the minds of the listeners. The more emotionally charged the image, the more memorable the content of the story. Vivid images help us understand and remember content by leaving us emotionally and imaginatively engaged.

Just to be clear: I am not suggesting you show more images to your students. We live in a digital age; we are constantly bombarded in the media with powerful images. While showing students really cool pictures as part of teaching is useful to some degree, it is the mental images we can create for students in their minds with words that most effectively make knowledge meaningful and memorable.

The Massive & The Miniscule

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

choices 1

When I was in high school, I read everything that Danielle Steel wrote. I loved the escape, the easy read, the happy endings, and I especially loved when she wrote historical fiction. One of my favorite books of all time is called Zoya by Danielle Steel. I was shocked when I got to a college history class and found out that I knew everything I needed to know about the Russian Revolution because of I read Zoya a couple years before.

I loved to read when I was a child. Still do. Have to disclose something though. I have rarely enjoyed reading a book that was assigned to me. Maybe because of the rebel in me? Maybe because I don’t like being told what to do?

My aversion to learning without a component of choice embedded in the learning has impacted me as an educator--I can understand the power of choice in learning. I can also understand the disengagement that happens in the absence of choice.

Back to Zoya--I still remember much of what I learned about the Russian Revolution when reading that book. How much do you think I would remember about the Russian Revolution if I learned about it through reading a textbook and lecture? My guess? Zilch.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

My twitter handle will seem a bit strange to some readers. 

I am @perfinker.

The premise of this term—coined by David L. Krech—is that human beings never just think. They are not best described, therefore, as “thinkers”. Rather, human beings are emotional beings. Our emotional responses are the primary way in which we make sense out of our experiences. We have bodies that influence how the world is experienced. We have the capacity to envision the possible—we are an imaginative species.  What we most remember and understand are topics/events that have evoked our emotions and imaginations. 

We always perceive, feel, and think at the same time; we perfink.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

Two giraffe at mysore zoo

We recently went to the zoo on a rather warm and sunny day. The animals were active and our kids had tons of questions we loved contemplating the answers to.

Summer has arrived!  The school year is finally coming to an end. This is the time of year when my jealousy of teachers who have already been enjoying summer vacation since May has finally started to subside.  There are so many reasons to love summer—time with my kids, enjoying the sun, traveling, exploring nature, and reading for fun (and professionally).

The best part of summer for me is being able to be outdoors and moving through nature whether it is hiking on a trail, walking on the beach, wandering through the zoo, playing at the park, or running through the neighborhood. Not only do I experience joy for these activities, but my kids do as well.  We talk, ask questions, explore answers, and reach new heights in intellectual stimulation.

It is at these moments when I think about students seated in classrooms during the school year. My mind races around multiple ways to use movement activities in the  classroom as a teacher and during professional development sessions as a teacher leader. Some of my ideas are simple ways to get kids up and moving, and other ideas involve more creativity regarding a specific lesson in a unit of study.

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