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Posted by on in Student Engagement
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Below is a list of five-word sets called a scrambled-sentence test. Take a few minutes to make a grammatical four-word sentence as quickly as possible out of each set. Go!

01  find solution acceptable an everyone

02  sun a is he dandy

03  delicious taste home bread baked

04  has today enjoyable been aimed

05  representation members equal fair and

06  just is peachy the everything

07  very evening a pleasant it

08  for get work are ready

09  satisfying novel the was wealth

10  comments any we welcome language

Imagine your students being in an engaged frame of mind. Ready to learn. Focused and immersed in the content of your unit, lesson, objective.

primingHere’s a practical technique you can apply to any lesson or even assessment (we’ll get to that later) to induce student engagement as well as an unlimited amount of applications you can hybrid. Based on the groundbreaking research of a witty psychologist named John Bargh, what you participated in above and what you can embed into your lessons is an example of what is called a priming experiment, which show just how much go on behind the locked door of our unconsciousness. In fact, take a look at what happened above.


In the spirit of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, we’ve acquired new knowledge, made meaning of it, now let’s transfer it.

Suppose you are going to embark on teaching the Gettysburgh Address modeling a curricular exemplar in literacy of the Common Core Standards—an example lesson that demonstrates methodology and techniques that support Common Core-based instruction, moving at a slower, more deliberate pace, while encouraging students to engage directly and in depth with complex texts.


Why not spend a few minutes in the beginning of class on a learning frame, to prime students to read closely and write clearly—put them in a scholarly state of mind in order to portend careful study. Give students a scrambled-sentence test interspersing ideational words like deliberate, complex, explore, slow, care, and clear.

As Bargh concludes in his study, social behavior is like any other psychological reaction to a social situation, capable of occurring in the absence of any conscious involvement or intervention. The implications for many social psychological phenomena—among them conformity, emotional and behavioral contagion, empathy, imitation and modeling, and the behavioral confirmation of stereotypes— would appear to be considerable.

Using scientific studies to cultivate learning, in this case, by inducing student engagement should be something educators are on the hunt for, not apprehensive to experiment with. In fact, modeling the testing of our hypotheses is integral to the essence of the Common Core Standards and 21st century learning.


Innovate, and find your own ways to use priming in your classroom. Studies show that by priming students for success before a test can improve their outcomes (wink;).


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Dan McCabe is a middle school assistant principal in New York. A former high school business teacher and coach, Dan pays close attention to the education of the whole child emphasizing the importance of developing trusted relationships with students. Having also served as a high school assistant principal Dan knows what it takes at the middle level to prepare students for their future. Dan is also passionate about his roles at moderator for #NYEDchat on alternating Monday nights and his position as co-founder of EdcampLI. Dan believes that children, and educators are more than a number.
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Guest Tuesday, 25 October 2016