25 February 2008

Top five: revitalizing K-12 pedagogy

Teaching isn’t a job, it’s an excursion to train future leaders of our world.

Here’s my top five “musts” for teacher lessons to maximize student engagement: create learning opportunities.

5. Meaningful Content:
The context here is the wrapper that content is presented with: it must touch the life of students – in one way or another. As a student, would you pay attention to what is presented in class if no one told you the “why”? I wouldn’t. The job of an educator is the knowledge expert – absolutely, but that job also includes developing a “wrapper,” which can take many forms: story, presentation, or activity. Technology is interesting wrapper for any subject or concept, we have to realize that students today spend more and more time using technology. The content wrapper must capture their attention.

4. Peer Interaction:
There is plenty of research that demonstrates serious learning takes place when peers communication – connect. In this simple communication so much takes place: understanding, confidence in content comprehension, building social skills, and even argumentation skills. Every lesson – every day – must include some level of verbally working with other class mates. It can be paired sharing; it could be class discussion facilitated by the teacher or even table discussion that is then presented to class. Something as simple as a “ticket out the door” where students must talk to another student, then say one thing that student learned and one question they have about content covered today. This communication between students will also help build a “safer” class environment as students feel more at ease with each other.

3. Learning Confirmation:
Each class must have one pit stop where there is time for students to get a check on their comprehension of the material provided so far in the lesson. Going on and on in class with no learning check can lead a student to being overwhelmed. This check is really a vote, “Thumbs up if you agree with this statement”. There is nothing wrong with two/three checks per lesson. Another example is a short reflection period on one or more prompts, giving students a writing moment, then picking a few students to say what they wrote.

2. Do It:
Whether the class is doing history, math, or science students NEED an opportunity to do what is being taught. Students today are so active and creative. They NEED an outlet to express themselves. Again, this can be as simple as making a non-verbal drawing to a prompt the teacher provides. A complex level is providing time for them to design and/or build a model from a rubric provided. The possibilities here are completely adjustable to your lesson time and requirements. The point is, students must have some extended time to focus at least four of their senses (touching, seeing, hearing, talking, thinking) on the material to absorb it.

1. Promote Success:
Every student must get some positive feedback once a day. There is too much bad in the world, which begins in the hall outside of class. Acknowledge their effort. Let them hear some praise. Find something good about the class and speak it. One example, tell students, after the bell rings to signal the end of class, what a terrific job they did in focusing today and then dismiss them. Yes, it’s that easy.