Engagement is the key
We have the curriculum. We have the great teachers. We even have technology and district support. But if the kids aren’t listening, there’s no point to the whole thing. If the kids aren’t paying attention…if the kids just don’t CARE – there’s nothing in the world that can change it.
We need to get them engaged – engaged in the work. Interested in the work. They need to WANTto do it. Without engagement, we’re knocking on a locked door. Engagement is the key into their heads.
So, how do we engage? There’s the old teaching tricks which still work well – use a “hook” to get them interested, discuss the stuff they are interested in (if I have to do one more problem solving problem having to do with candy or football, I swear…), use their names in the examples…those are all great and useful. But we need to kick it up a notch with today’s learners.
1- It’s got to be relevant. They aren’t stupid – if they know it’s something that really doesn’t MATTER, then it’s not going to matter how much you make it about pokemon cards. They wont’ care, because it isn’t important. You need to prove to them that it’s something they need, and can use in the future, and is RELEVANT to their lives.
2 – It’s got to be fun. It won’t always be so simple, and nothing can be fun for everyone all the time, but it’s got to have an element of fun. Let’s be honest – we like things to be fun too. That’s really what FUN means. And don’t you like teaching when it’s fun for YOU too?
3- Use technology. Not embracing the current technologies – phones, pads, projectors, the internet…is only going to stifle a student’s growth. The more they can control those technologies, the more they’ll be in a position to control the earth in the future. They are the ones who’re going to be in charge of your life in 60 years – let’s make sure THEY understand how to program the VCR. 🙂 – besides, it will ENGAGE them (and it makes the work all the more relevant at the same time). Don’t be afraid. Use their smartphones.
4- Target instruction. This is the toughest one in my opinion, because it takes a lot of juggling. But if you can get the right learning targets to the right students, they are going to be motivated to be successful. You lose half your audience when you’re targeting the instruction too high or too low. It’s tough to do, but it’s worth it (and it IS possible – I have to give the same lesson to 1st graders, 2nd graders, 3rd and 4th graders at the same time. It’s hard, but doable. Trust me).
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