Student Engagement Strategies and the Worth of Complexity
It’s important to begin your lessons in a more complex way. Too often, we simply state the objective for the day, and jump into the lesson. I find there are two challenges with this. First, it's not engaging for students. Additionally, it doesn’t build ownership. Let’s look at several options for increasing the complexity of your lesson starters.
Five Helpful Tips for Student Engagement Strategies
In “Follow the Footsteps,” tape paper footsteps to the floor. Write statements on each footprint. Students follow the steps and at the end, they write a sentence or paragraph summarizing the information. If you prefer, ask them to write a question they have about the information.
A second strategy is to use a "Gallery Walk.” Students typically do gallery walks to look at finished products, usually from a project. In this case, you create the items to post around the room. Students visit each product—which can be as simple as a paragraph of information, or more complex such as a series of tweets, a Facebook page, or a mock-up of a webpage—and identify the mistake in each one. Requiring students to assess information and identify misconceptions is a much more rigorous skill.
You might also use “Uncover the Picture.” We often show students an image and then ask them to describe what they see. To increase the complexity, put the picture inside a file folder with eyes and a mouth cut out. Ask students to describe and predict the picture from the part they can see. If you prefer technology, divide your image into puzzle pieces and show them on the screen one at a time.
Check out the New York Times Learning Center's daily "What's Going On in This Picture?"
Next, you can start your lesson by using surveys, which can serve two purposes. First, if you list a series of informational statements or pictures and ask students to identify which one does not belong, this allows you to assess students’ prior knowledge. Second, you can use surveys to launch your lesson, such as asking students to choose their favorite food, which will be used in a lesson on graphing.
Fourth, you can ask students to “Write the Room.” This will serve as a review activity. Post blank posters around the room. Ask students to find one poster and write the most important thing they learned the day before. Then, use these to guide your review discussion. Another option is to write one word or phrase on each poster and ask students to write what they remember about the word. For younger students, you can use pictures and have them respond with drawings if appropriate.
Finally, you can begin your lesson with a question to prompt students’ thinking. Richard Curwin shares a variety of questions to begin your instruction.
Student Engagement Strategies: A Final Note
Increasing the complexity of our lesson starters encourages higher-order thinking, and it can support higher levels of engagement. Try one of the ideas, and watch your students thrive.
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