Saturday, March 15, 2014

Facilitate Learning: Engagement Strategies to Empower Students!

I recently saw an article on twitter: Should We Be Engaging or Empowering Student?  Great question!  I believe that our positive relationships, leadership, enthusiasm for each subject/activity, questioning/discussion techniques, and engagement strategies will excite students to learn.  Once we have them excited it is easier to empower them.  We need to model empowerment… show them what it feels and looks like.  Charlotte Danielson suggests the following within Domain 3 of our teacher evaluation process:

-Allow students to assume the responsibility and take initiative to modify learning tasks to make it more relevant to them.
-Provide extensive choice in how students can complete a task.
-Allow students to suggest modifications and/or additions to the materials being used.
-Provide an opportunity for reflection and closure on the lesson to consolidate understanding.
-Allow students to help establish the evaluation criteria.
-Provide an opportunity for students to monitor their own understanding, either on their own initiative or as a result of tasks set by the teacher.

These all sound like examples of empowerment.  So, the question asks… Should we be engaging or empowering students?  I believe we need to do both with the ultimate goal of empowering them to be life-long learners.

Below are some techniques that many of our teachers are using to support student engagement:
Tell a friend     
Have students tell a friend before asking for classroom response.  Sounds simple… because it is.  Important to teach students the signal to redirect class back to teacher.  Create anchor chart on how to be a good listener.

Turn and Talk   
Answer questions, have discussions, etc. with turn and talk partner before answering to the class.  This encourages 100% participation and active discussion. Consider having A/B partners during turn and talk, giving each partner a task to the discussion.  Create partners by proximity, ability level, o’clock partners, etc.

Article, story, textbook reading, etc. is divided into sections.  Put students into groups.  They are responsible for becoming the “expert” on their particular section.  Then, regroup students so that each group has one member from each original group.  Students (topic experts) share out - creates 100% participation and each student is responsible for dissemination of information.

Say Something
Consider the most important point from the article, story, chapter, video, read aloud, etc...
Say something:
-          Which I agree
-          Which I disagree
-          That puzzles me
-          I am reminded of
-          That was new to me
-          I wish the author had said more about
Place on chart paper and allow students to utilize post-it notes to display thoughts.  This can also be used with google docs and/or kidblog.

Chalk Walk       
Utilize chart paper with 5-7 specific questions related to the target learning (1 question per chart paper).  Put students into groups.  The groups should have different color post-its or markers when commenting and answering questions on the chart paper. This can also be an individualized silent task to encourage independent thinking. Again, kidblog and/or google docs could be utilized to answer questions instead of chart paper.
I wonder... I noticed     
Jot down a wonder and notice (use as exit slip, journal entry, post-it, etc.) during an article review, video, student presentation, teacher lesson, etc. This will enrich classroom discussion and raise level of concern.   Also great for staff meetings and professional development. 

A/B Pyramid    
Partner A faces the board/Partner B faces away.  Partner A describes the word (science/SS vocab/spelling word, etc.) or concept on the board without using the actual word.  Partner B has to guess what it is.  (Think $25,000 Pyramid).  Great for a review.

Think, pair, share, square
Students think...pair with another student... share with that student... then move into a square with 2 other students to share with them.  At the end - one person from each group of 4 provides info to the entire class - group of 4 picks the speaker. 
Sample Anticipation Guide                       
When reading, create a couple statement questions - have students agree/disagree with statement, see if they were correct after reading, provide page number and evidence – student could provide info in a journal or different media that teacher provides.

Question and answer cards                       
3-5 index card - have answers on card and you provide the question.  Students need to hold up the answer on their card to show teacher if they have the answer or not.  Quick formative assessment, great for review, and keeps kids engaged.

Story Circle of Thoughts          
After reading story the teacher will put students into groups.  They must discuss the story, taking on the point of view of different characters from the book, creating a society within each group. Then share out with the group or write a summary of ideas/thoughts.

Quick Draw
During read aloud have students do a quick draw of setting, character trait, big idea, prediction, etc.  Supports active listening during the story.

5 minute quick write
Take 5 minutes to summarize, predict, defend, compare/contrast, etc. after classroom discussion, story, activity, etc.  Time bound assignments will raise level of concern and enhance engagement.

Choreographed physical movement
Teach hand-clapping patterns, chanting verse of math facts, spelling/vocab words, etc.  Listen to songs set to math facts, social studies/science concepts, etc.  Older students can take their favorite songs and change the words to support learning, taking concepts and/or vocab words and putting them to song is fun and engaging. 

Connect, Extend, Challenge     
Use 3 sticky notes to take notes on an article, video, chapter, story, etc.
1. Connect - make a connection with another text, idea, etc.
2. Extend - How has this article helped you to extend (grow) your thinking?
3. Challenge - What challenges or questions do you still have after reading/viewing?

Exit Slip
Post "I learned" and "I loved" and “I can” column on the board.  Have students place each post-it note (name on back) under each column.  This can provide teacher with good formative information regarding student learning and engagement to the target objective.    

After reading an article, section in a book, or discussing a topic as a class... the students can create a headline to summarize the most important part.  They should try to style the headline, as line one that they would read in a newspaper. It should be attention-grabbing and support the target learning. 

CSI (Color, Symbol, Image)
Fold paper into 3 sections:
1.            Chose Color that represents a big idea that stood out for you.  Color section one.
2.            Draw a symbol to represent a big idea in section two.
3.            Sketch an image to represent a big idea.
Students should be prepared to discuss the reason for the CSI.   They can even write one or two sentences explaining each section.

6 learning methods
Additional engagement strategies/methods:
-          Inquiry-Based Learning
-          Problem-Based Learning
-          Discovery Learning
-          Cooperative Learning
-          Authentic Learning
-          Project-Based Learning

Remember, don’t try everything at once…  pick one or two that will support 100% active participation and build your repertoire of engagement strategies.  I hope you find this helpful, supporting a new idea or something you want to get back to using. 

Feel free to comment and share some of your engagement strategies, let’s learn together! 

Enjoy teaching, engaging, and empowering your students!  

Keith Howell

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