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

Posted by on in What If?

happy kids

I once taught in a school wher we had to use a standardized lesson plan template that was a helpful guide, but was pretty limited to just the basics. What was missing from that lesson plan template—and indeed from any lesson plan template that I have ever seen--is a section devoted to adding in enjoyment. We all know that when students enjoy their work, they perform better, stay on task, learn more, forge stronger connections, and tend to stay in school longer. If these are the benefits, shouldn’t we plan activities that will allow students to enjoy their work?

I would love to see a lesson plan template with a space dedicated to activities that students can enjoy.  It would be easy to add in activities that are enjoyable if a space for it appeared somewhere between the opening of class activities and the close of class activities. If this was a part of a lesson plan template, the implicit message would be clear: it’s important to consider the fun factor when planning lessons.

If you are fortunate enough to make up your own lesson plan template, consider adding in a space for fun in each lesson. You don’t have to devote lots of time each class to fun-filled activities but do consider formalizing your plans for it. Even just a quick little reminder to yourself to add a bit of joy into the school day would make a difference. Luckily for teachers everywhere, it’s not hard to plan classroom activities that students enjoy. Here are some simple, low preparation activities that you can adapt to make syour students smile as they go about their work:

Writing with markers

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

It has been a long time since I have had to take a day off for illness.  In fact, I think the last time I was out sick was in 2011.  I eat right, exercise, and take care of myself.  My job comes with some stress, but usually not enough to wear me down.

Like most teachers, if I have a cold, I go to school.  It is way easier to sniffle through a week than to write out detailed sub plans for each individual course for 5 days.  So, imagine my horror at being told to stay home for 2 weeks.

What is a teacher to do?  Luckily, I had some strong antibiotics and a strong online toolkit that helped me get through the hardship of being away from the classroom.  PowerSchool Learning, Loom, FlipGrid, Kahoot, and EdPuzzle allowed me and my students to interact and learn together, even though I wasn’t on campus.

Have a good foundation. I would be lost without the use of a learning management system (LMS).  I have used many in my time, but it wasn’t until I started teaching online with Global Online Academy that I really got a grasp of how to make an LMS a dynamic space for my students to interact with course content and each other.

As some of you have read in my blog a few years ago, I make the most of my PowerSchool Learning pages (aka Haiku Learning).  I put all of my units, lesson by lesson, on my pages within the LMS.  Students can see a calendar of lessons, they can see the individual lessons, and they can access all lessons resources: video tutorials, documentaries, links to other online activities, text, worksheets, or whatever was handed out in class.

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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

videogames_20171101-093507_1.jpg

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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