Okay, I’m not sure what your classroom is like, but mine always had the same few students with their hands up ready to answer the questions. As a teacher I wanted to create an environment that fostered risk taking and engagement. I wanted students to feel comfortable enough to be able to actively participate.
I didn’t want a ‘tired’ classroom with students looking bored. I was constantly thinking about different ways I could jazz up my strategies for teaching to overcome the ‘tired’ feel.
In my recent post, The Top 5 Behaviour Management Strategies That Have Worked For Me, I spoke a little bit about teaching skills (as a way to deter behavioural issues from occurring). These are the things you do to engage your students, which could include how you structure your lessons, the types of questions you ask and how you use ‘wait time’. Head over to the post mentioned to read more on behaviour management strategies.
I want to share with you one of my favourite strategies for engaging students and then I want to hear from you!
Use Rich Tasks/Learning Experiences
You may or may not have heard the term ‘rich tasks’ before. One definition I found for this was, “A specific activity designed to allow students to demonstrate knowledge through a practical, real-world activity”.
The idea of a rich task to me and how I have incorporated this in to my teaching includes;
- Connecting the learning to real life contexts;
- Helping students to develop useful skills;
- Allowing the learning to be open to different levels of challenge;
- Encouraging creativity; and
- Allowing opportunity for collaboration and discussion.
Let me share an example of this with you. I had a focus of introducing and teaching students how to write a procedure. I could very well have just modelled this to students and then allowed them to have a go. However, I really wanted students to see the value of knowing about this particular genre of writing.
It was a year that the Olympic Games would be on. I thought that as this is so heavily talked about and broadcast that this would be a good way to connect with what is happening outside the classroom.
I wrote a program that was presented through a learning centre based on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. This way I could tap in to the different ways that my students learn. The learning centre had different activities that students could complete that provided knowledge on different aspects of the Olympics.
Alongside this I worked with small groups of students to talk about procedures. The culminating activity (rich task) of this program would be for students to work in pairs/small groups to develop a game to be included in our own class Olympics. Students would need to write the rules/instructions for their games, orally share this with the class and then run the game during our Olympics.
I provided many activities for students that allowed for developing the skills necessary to be able to write the instructions for their game. Some of the activities included:
- Orally sharing how to play a game/sport. Guiding questions were used to help students consider how they could explain how to play a game. Some of the questions included: can you tell us what things you need to play the game? What was the first thing you had to do? What did you do after that? If you had to explain to someone who hadn’t done something like this before, what is the main thing you would tell them to remember?
- Constructing a flow chart of the game/sport they orally explained how to play. This is where I introduced the procedure framework to help order the flow charts.
- Piecing back together different procedures. 8 different procedures were cut apart and jumbled; students had to use their knowledge of procedures to piece them together.
Students used this knowledge to assist them with developing and writing the procedure for their own game.
This program was one of my most successful units of work that fully engaged students. This particular class was extremely challenging and it was difficult to engage all students. I think some of the reasons why this worked included:
- Students knew that they weren’t just writing instructions for a game and that’s it. But they would need to use these to explain and teach the game to the class and then implement the game during the class Olympics.
- The Olympics is what everyone was talking about, so it connected with what was happening in the world at the time.
- Students were provided with choice for what activities they completed in the learning centre.
Okay so I have explained one of my favourite strategies for engaging students. It’s over to you now. What are some of your favourite strategies? Please share your ideas in the comments below!
Just before I go I wanted to welcome all the new readers and subscribers who have joined us in the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking that now might be a good time for a BIG giveaway 😀
I currently have 36 subscribers to Top Notch Teaching. When I reach 50 I thought it would be a good idea to have my first giveaway. As I don’t show the number of subscribers on my blog, this will be a surprise!
So if you want to help me get there, then please feel free to share Top Notch Teaching with you friends.