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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in engagement

Posted by on in Early Childhood

When my daughter was in second grade, in the ‘80s, the second-grade teachers started the morning with a piano, a teacher who played, and children sitting on the floor around, singing. The interactive song, The Cat Came Back, by Fred Penner, was much requested. Where are the routines that involve singing for the pure joy of it, now?

At the center in which I worked recently, “Singing Circle” was a non-negotiable part in the school routine. It came right before lunch. Children would call out, as lunch was being brought up from the kitchen, “Lunch is here!”, smelling the meatloaf and sweet potatoes. But keeping to the schedule, the teacher leading that day would say, “We have five minutes! Let’s sing another song”. Each teacher was able to plan her/his own ideas for singing circle, but children quickly found out who was leading each day and put in requests, which were usually put in the schedule. Aiken Drum, and Tooty-ta were popular. But so was Laurie Berkner’s The Story of My Feelings (usually sung along to the CD), and Puff the Magic Dragon! Singing sweetly, leaning on teachers, or sitting in laps, the children and teachers partook of one of the oldest traditions of humankind: Singing together as a community.

There are centers that use YouTube videos, and other recorded music, for their programs. "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" is a staple, along with "Going on a Bear Hunt.: But where is the individualized, personal song sharing? Who sings to children so that, eventually, they will learn the song and join in? The more nuanced, slightly more difficult songs get short shrift because teachers fear the children will not “get” them, or that they themselves will look bad. Searching your heart for those songs that move you, or excite you, may be where you will find a gem that children look forward to singing.

The songs you choose needn’t be educational (not that I’m against that). I knew a teacher who asked her threes to lay down while she dimmed the lights and sang Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, right before they went home! These threes learned every word of the lyrics, and sang along. Another teacher sang old American folk songs, finding the lyrics from internet searches, such as Tingalayo (without the cute YouTube video!), Old Susanna, This Land is Your Land, and Bought me a Cat. Often using a drum for attention getting, I did scat with the children, introducing it to them with Scat Like That (are you in for a treat, if you teach them to scat), sang the Abiyoyo song while I recited the story, and loved to do Girl and Boy Scout songs (‘My Mom, she gave me a penny, and Oh, I wish I were a little round orange). A teacher, who happened to be African-American, brought delightful game/songs to our somewhat Lilly-white school, such as Little Johnny Brown. Her instrument? A tambourine!

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

During World Creativity & Innovation Week (April 15-21, 2018) I had the pleasure of moderating a week-long conversation on imagination with the Google+ Creative Higher Education (#CreativeHE) community. My imaginative colleague Jailson Lima from Vanier College, Quebec, moderated with me. You can read the whole week of conversation on Google+ in the Creative Academic community space here.

Walking Challenge

We posed an imaginative challenge on Day 3. The challenge? Get Outside. Here's what we said:

Greetings imaginative colleagues! Sometimes we need to change our contexts (eg actual locations, ways of engaging, practicing or thinking) to get our imaginations going; we need to purposefully step outside of our typical practices to more easily envision new possibilities and alternative perspectives. The goal of this challenge is to stimulate the imagination of someone else and the challenge requires you to literally (and figuratively) get outside. We want you to take a walk with wonder and curiosity guiding you. Have something in mind that you teach or you might help someone else learn. Let your wonder and curiosity guide you in noticing what your local community might teach. What lessons or knowledge does the Place afford? How is your imagination ignited? If you are a teacher or educational developer seek the affordances for teaching/learning this topic outside. What imaginative task or activity might your students do while outside (walking or in stillness) that could enhance their imaginative engagement and meaning-making and enable their creativity to flourish?

(You can learn more about the Walking Curriculum from imaginED hereCurrently a PreK-12 resource but expanding!)

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Posted by on in General

There is a question that I’m getting more and more at workshops and trainings and that is "how do I motivate my students to work?" I hate to break it to you, but there is no “magic bullet” solution to this. Every student is going to have their own solution to getting motivated.

However, there are some things you can ask yourself when a student feels “unmotivated” or is unwilling to put forth the effort to learn that you think they are capable of. Instead of assuming “they just won’t work”, ask yourself these questions: 

Question 1: Are They Engaged?

Engagement is one of the most powerful motivators when it comes to your students. Are the learning opportunities you're providing worthwhile to your students? Do they peak their interest? Are they varied enough to keep them interested?

This is probably one of the most common things I see when motivation declines in learners. Either the tasks are repetitive and monotonous (example: constant textbook work), or they are “worksheet” driven and don’t allow students to interact with the world around them.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

Today I was working in a busy kindergarten classroom.  I arrived to a room full of activity, bustling with energy, teaming with learning.  The students were engaged at play, active and joyful with the noise of conversation and materials interacting.   A group of boys had build and obstacle course/pathway and they were challenging themselves to jump between the blocks while staying balanced.  Another group was using a mirror to draw self-portraits.  Other children were playing with puppets, painting, and reading. 

After a period of observation, we asked them to leave their play and to join us at the carpet for some music and storytelling.  The teacher tapped the outside of a singing bowl to get their attention and the children slowly began to make their way towards the carpet.  I love singing bowls so I took the opportunity to use it as a way to draw all the students in, playing it by rubbing the outside edge and then slowly moving it across my body so that the sound moved through the room.  The students, familiar with this sound, were transfixed and watched me as I raised and lowered the bowl, moving it from right to left as it vibrated in my hand.

It was a bit of theatre, a gimmick perhaps.  I use all of my performance skills in these transitional moments; I draw myself up to full height, exaggerate my gestures, and use my voice to effect: when the sound of the singing bowl faded away, my voice was a whisper. Later in the lesson, the children went and gathered items that they could use to make soft and loud sounds in the room and I conducted their found-sound-orchestra with the nearest pencil, using flourishes and facial expressions to indicate when I wanted each group to play. 

So many times when I watch teachers who are struggling to maintain students’ interest and to manage a group, I notice that, while the may have a good grasp of the content they’re teaching, they’ve forgotten (or have never thought about) that teaching is a performing art.  While I am absolutely an advocate of teacher as guide on the side and meddler in the middle, I am noticing that many teachers don’t know how to grab onto those ‘on stage’ moments and make the most of them. 

So, in the spirit of building dramatic tension please imagine a drumroll as I give you my top five tips for creating student engagement through performance.

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Posted by on in General

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Have you seen the video games that kids play these days? They are absolutely amazing! Maybe not always appropriate, but amazing! I can remember when I thought that Atari’s Tanks and Space Invaders were incredible. And at the time, they were. Besides video games, kids today have access to technology the likes of which we couldn’t have ever imagined.

And yet, we often wonder why we have a difficult time keeping them on task and maintaining their attention. Our competition is fierce. Exponentially more money is spent each year on research and development for video games than is spent on research and development methods for education.

But don't worry.

You don't need to spend a penny.

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