Launching Your Teaching Career - Part 6 - Engagement Strategies
Sep 15, 2009 Learning Methodology 2484 Views
Absolutely critical to teaching and learning success is engaging your students. This is not the meaningless and unknowing nod of an adolescent or a video game playing first grader. You can recognize full engagement when you see it in faces, read it in responses, hear in lively discussion, and witness proof in projects, products, and performances. Where do you begin?
First, establish a Quiet Signal. Whether it is raising your hand and counting down fingers - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - or an echo clap - you clap three times/students echo the clap, you must have a method for students to tie up loose ends on their current work so that they can then stop and give their teacher full and undivided attention. A chime works well as a signal as does a clock timer reflected on the board so that students know exactly the amount of time they have before the next instruction arrives. Decide now. How are you going to grab student attention in a way that does not disrupt and that students can easily understand and can then adhere to?
Next are index cards or popsicle sticks for Randomly Calling on Students. If you use cards, write each student's name on one. You can also add addresses, phone numbers, parents'/guardians' names, birthday, etc. With the sticks there is just enough room for the name. When they are complete, mix and shuffle your cards/sticks and then use them to randomly call on every student by pulling his/her name from the pile. After calling on the student, return the cards/sticks so that students know they have continuing responsibility for listening and responding. Be certain that every child is called on frequently to keep them engaged in learning. When students know you hold them accountable for listening and participating, they become accountable!
Plan Your Questions before class begins. Make certain that you have a wide variety of questions from recall, understand, and remember to questions that require deeper thinking - apply, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and create. What color is the door? may start the session but it must move to Why is the door red? What would happen if the door had been blue? Why did the author not have the door striped? What color of door would have better exemplified the motives of the main character and why? One question can be expanded to encompass much more.
Wait Time. Because class minutes are finite and teachers have so much material to teach, many resort to quickly throwing out a question and then calling on the first hand to flutter into the air. This means questions are most often lower level, short answer type answered by the same student who always shoots up his hand. Poorly thought out questions with tossed out answers leave students without the thinking and probing practice needed to develop their brain power. Instead pose your well planned question, pause so students can reflect on the question and formulate a strong answer, randomly pull out a name, pause again, and then call on a student. When that student is done, call on another and another. Increase thinking with Do you agree? Where is a potential error in this response? You want your students to think, justify, prove - to step outside of the learning box with creative and inventive responses.
Since posing whole class questions combined with wait time and probing takes tremendous amounts of time and you have so few minutes, incorporate other response techniques into your instruction. My all-time favorite is Dry Erase Boards. Each student or student pair has a board, marker, and eraser. You pose questions, all students respond or a partner poses a question and a peer evaluates the answer. Students of all ages love dry erase boards plus they provide a quick way for teachers to check for understanding. You may buy these from education outlets or make your own. Version one is to purchase a large piece of melamine at the local lumber yard and have it cut into squares. Version two is placing light colored construction paper in a page protector. Both of these methods are cheap and simple.
Green, Yellow, Red cards are used by students to show their degree of understanding, how soon they need help, or if they agree/disagree/are unsure. Each student has a stack with each color. Green indicates "I understand/agree!" Yellow symbolizes "I'm working on it/need help soon." Red means "Help/I disagree". A quick glance provides the teacher with information feedback for next steps in instruction.
Think, Pair, Share or Write, Pair, Share allow students time to prepare an answer, discuss it with a partner, and then share it with the group or class. This technique promotes formulating answers with care and reflection, testing driving it on a peer, and then announcing it to others. This is especially useful for second language learners who get to practice first and hone language skills or shy students who now have time to get an answer "right".
The greatest engagement strategy is an engaging teacher. Love your students and their learning. Adore your subject area or grade level and recognize it as a way of fulfilling your dream of making a difference in the lives of others. Begin each day refreshed, filled with joy, and brimming with enthusiasm. End your day the same. When you care, so will your students and their learning will abound.