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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in student engagement

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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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

...writing poetry can feel like doing ballet in a phone booth.

Poetry. Boring? Government. Ordinary? Math. Lifeless?

We think not.

I had the pleasure this week of working with a diverse group of 42 secondary school teachers. They came from many different schools and taught a range of topics in Grades 8-12. The session was entitled Emotion At The Helm: Engaging Emotions and Imaginations in The Secondary Classroom. Part of the workshop involved two collaborative activities, one employing tools to tap into students’ Romantic imagination, the other to tap into their Philosophic imagination. (Learn more about different forms of imaginative engagement here.) This post shares some of the imaginative ideas the teachers* came up with that employ cognitive tools to evoke their students’ emotions and imaginations with “ordinary” topics like Poetry, Government, and Linear Relationships (Math).

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Without a doubt the first few days of school are the most critical ones in helping to create the foundation of good human relationships with your students. Even the most skilled teacher in the pedagogical sciences of education will be less than effective if the kids don't "like" them, yes, I said, "like them". Now I am not talking about making lots of young friends but I am talking about creating a relationship with your students that is built on mutual respect and a kinship, a kinship that forms your stove of learning. So here are six tips, teachertips, to build a strong, effective stove of learning for your classroom. 

1. Please don't go over the syllabus on day one. I know, it's expected, and that is exactly the reason I strongly advise against doing it. Your first impression, is just that, your first and only first impression, you get no do-overs, so make it magnificent. I am not here to tell you what to do on day one, you can go google that, but if you see your first day as the first blind date into a forced marriage, it takes on a more powerful significance. I used to start a video project on day one, a DV quilt, where all the students were responsible for coming up with a finish to the sentence, "America is __________" and one visual. We then patched them together for a class film that we could analyze and use to springboard ourselves into a discussion of the nation. It wasn't the tech or the fancy final product that made them want to come back for more, it was the engagement. So ENGAGE them, make them want to be in the forced marriage, otherwise you may be on the road to a difficult and long, painful divorce. If you are interested in developing your own DV quilt, check out the tutorial below to start marinating. 

 

2. Use the magic word. What is the magic word? It's their name of course! I understand it's a difficult task, especially if you teach secondary, there literally could be 150 names or more. But the point is not to memorize all of their names quickly, it's to convey the message to your kids, that their name is important, it's important to you. Make it a point in the beginning of the year that you are on a mission to learn their names, I would make a bet that if I didn't know their name in two weeks I would give them a point on their next test. It was this act, this act of good faith, that I believe, earned the respect from my students. You may make mistakes, no, you will make mistakes, but make no mistake about it, one's own name is truly the most magical word in the human language. So learn them and use them to make magic in your classroom of learning. 

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Posted by on in General

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My mantra is simple, "Where attention goes, energy flows". Without a student's authentic attention, you are basically swimming with no arms or legs in a choppy ocean of learning. Therefore, garnering student's attention in the first few minutes of class as they walk in is perhaps your most important job as an educator. Setting the stage for your lesson and doing everything you can to be sure kids are engaged is not as difficult as one would imagine but it does take effort. Here are three tips to consider as you attempt to tune in students to your learning frequency.

1. Kids come to class with a million things rattling around in their brain. The hallway is a test tube of attention virsuses which seek to invade students consiousness and disrupt your class. With that in mind, the one thing you can most definately control in regards to their attention is sound, I am talking about music. Having kids walk into an empty, quiet class is an invitation to disruption. So choose music which can not only interupt their consiousness but is related to your teaching concept. On test days I would pipe in "Rocky" and as a history teacher it was easy to find music associated with concepts I was teaching; Woody Guthrie for the Great Depression, "Over There" for WWI but if you teach math, science, art, ELA, ELL or anything else, use your creativity to support your lesson. Whatever you do, don't give up one of the most powerful forms of attention engagement.....sound!

2. Your visual. In my travels as an Instructional Technology Coach is a district of 35k students, i see a lot of classrooms. In the vast majority of classrooms I visit, I see pretty much the same thing on the wall when class begins; a scientifically written objective with either text directions on a white smartboard or a visual of a content specific item; the Scientific table of elements or a picture of George Washington. Chances are students rarely pay attention to what they see on your wall when they walk in, so make them. Find powerful visuals that will not only knock their socks off but will also facilitate your learning objective. I use Skitch on my MAC ( http://mac.filehorse.com/download-skitch/ ) but with a PC you can use ( http://jing.en.lo4d.com/ ), either way, not only can you rip a quick image but you can manipulate it to give student direction. How could a kid not pay attention to this?

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