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

 b2ap3_thumbnail_download-3.jpg

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

As I continue working with more and more teachers I'm often surprised at how many I still see "page turning" to plan instruction. "Page turning" is a form of lesson planning that a teacher uses, that is simply opening a textbook and continuing where they left off during the last lesson. Now don't get me wrong, textbooks have their place in education (I guess), but when teachers rely on them too heavily instruction can suffer greatly, and more importantly, learning does too.

Here are a few reasons you should get textbooks out of your lesson planning and start forging your own instructional path, outside the edges of those pages.

Textbooks Fail To Engage Students

I don't care how many pictures or fun activities exist in the realm of the book you are using, I will almost guarantee that it is not engaging all your students. The simple reason is that the writers of that book don't know your students, YOU DO. I have never (and will never) heard a student mutter "Wow! Chapter 7 was surprisingly fun and exciting! I can't wait to continue working to Chapter 8!" I would bet that you haven't either. That's because textbooks are designed as a curriculum TOOL to be used in lesson planning, not a curriculum in themselves. Students must interact, play with, and experience concepts, not just read about them. (or hear about them during your lectures...which don't work either by the way.)

Textbooks Are NOT Universally Designed

Textbooks are generally written at or above the grade level you are teaching. The pictures, diagrams, and experiences presented in them are also created at that level. I don't know about you, but most of my students, or at least some of them, were below grade level or still achieving their current grade level. I would also like to suggest that the context, circumstances, and lens in which most textbooks view your curriculum are not going to engage or allow for much adjustment or modification if they are your primary lesson planning tool.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Walk more. Anywhere. (Rubinstein, 2015, p. 251)

The Walking Curriculum offers learning activities designed to simultaneously develop your students’ sense of place and to enrich their understanding of cross-curricular topics and core competencies. Walking curriculum activities reflect the principles and practices of Imaginative Ecological Education as they connect engagement of the body, imagination and the local natural and cultural context through outdoor learning activities. While all Walking Curriculum activities available at imaginED are adaptable to students of different ages, the walk themes that follow have been specifically designed for secondary school-aged students.

2 Walks For High School Students  

#1 Understanding Community Walk

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

It can be intoxicating to realize that a whole world of abstract ideas exists that can explain and help us interpret the world of our daily lives. If supported in thinking in theoretical ways, many of our senior students/adult learners quickly and thoroughly take to the powerful understanding of the world that abstract ideas can offer.

[And so my "Tips for Imaginative Educator" Series continues. Welcome (back)!]

Developing A Sense of Abstract Reality

All through our lives we actively develop a sense of reality through particular kinds of emotional and imaginative engagements. This focus on reality–the real world around us–tends to develop with the onset of literacy. We seek real-world examples of knowledge we are introduced to. We tend to particularly enjoy the “romantic” adventure- and wonder-filled aspects. What does this look like, then, when we study a topic like history? Well, with tools of oral and written language shaping our meaning-making, we most enjoy vivid accounts of exceptional events, heroes, or stories of people/situations that “beat the odds”. We are engaged with the ingenuity of people who are able to channel their hopes, fears and passions in ways that lead to novel solutions and inventions. We collect many examples of specific historical events that, together, create for us an image of why the world is as it is.

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