I received an intriguing question after I posted last week’s blog, “What are your favorite engagement strategies?”
That got me thinking. I have a few go to’s that perennially live in my back pocket. I am a firm believer that in order for students to show what they know...or in this case show what they are processing they have to either say something...or do something. So what makes the short-list? Here are my top 5:
- Post it notes- I love the post it note for a number of reasons. In brief a student can jot a note, find a detail, express an opinion on a post it. These notes can live in school texts that can not be directly written on or highlighted. Beyond that though they can also be used for class discussion in small or whole groups. They can be placed on graphic organizers. The post it note might have been a quick engagement piece one day which fuels a deepening of the topic another day.
- Collaborative Conversations-Whether the structure is a think pair share, or a think pair square this structure gives kids a chance to process the learning before they have the chance to tune out. While an initial prompt might have students discussing at the recall level be prepared to take their thinking deeper!
- Journals and quick writes/draws- The beauty of students having a journal in their desk is that paper is handy...always...there is no need to stop everything to pass out paper. Having kids write a few sentences or draw something to encapsulate their learning helps them process what it is you are asking them to learn. Think about the last time you attended a conference. Chances are whether you typed, drew, or hand-wrote your notes...you took a moment to jot something down that you could refer to later. A clever presenter may have even built reflection time of some sort into their presentation.
- Random name pickers-There are a lot of different ways this is done in the tech savvy classroom. Back in the day it was as simple as having a jar of tongue depressors each with a student name and/or number on them. You don’t know when your name might be called. These work best in combination with a quick write, and oral rehearsal with a partner. Not sure if students are listening to each other?...pull another name and ask them to repeat what the last student just said, push them further to agree or disagree with the previous answer and tell why.
- Foldables-The funny thing about folding a piece of paper into fourths or half a dozen other configurations is that students seem to like the act of folding the paper. They also seem to be intrigued with the mystery of what will go in each of the sections that folding the paper created. As an example, have students fold a paper into fourths and at different stages of the lesson have students fill the boxes according to your prompt. In the first box they write their prior knowledge on the topic or review what they took away from the previous lesson. In the second they record three key details from today’s reading. In the third box they consider the author’s point of view. In the fourth box they write their own opinion.
The key to getting the most out of these or any engagement strategy is truly knowing what it is you want your students to get out of the lesson. If you are seeking compliance behaviors so that you can continue on with your best lecture ever...that is all you will get...compliance. Merely copying the teacher’s thoughts on a post it note, or in a journal, or on a foldable is surface level thinking. It reflects what you as the teacher know about the subject...it does not force the student to process the concept. Start with the surface level by all means...but then be prepared to push them to process that information in some way themselves. Instead of telling them to copy your notes. Ask them to use your information in some way. In the end...you will have more engaged learners with deeper understanding for the target concept.
What strategies are on your top 5?