Cranking Up the Volume on Engagement

Are you looking for ways to spice up your instruction as you prepare for these testing months?  Is part of your concern regarding your students paying attention and being engaged in the classroom?

In 2012, I wrote a best-selling book, Brain-Powered Strategies to Engage All Learners, to target such instructional challenges.  How do we get students involved in learning while feeling challenged, yet give ourselves the instructional insight we need that provides us with a formative assessment, differentiation, and higher-order thinking, and also targets how the brain learns?  All of this can be accomplished when we look at specific strategies that are concise, challenging and—honestly—empowering!Me & Maddi recital

Goal: To Be “In the Know”!

The strategy called “In the Know” helps students tap into what they are familiar with versus content they truly know.  In this strategy, you use a typical 3-column chart.  At the top of the left column put a question mark; at the middle column put a comma; and at the right column put an exclamation point.  I recommend doing this first as a class on one shared chart, with the goal of having each student do this independently once learned.

Now consider some vocabulary words or math formulas that are pertinent to student understanding or foundational to future learning.  Be sure to narrow the number of items to what is truly important so students have a realistic amount of words or formulas to learn.  I recommend 3-8 items.  Provide each student with the same number of sticky notes as items and to write those items on the notes.

When ready, ask the students to place each sticky note in the column that best reflects the student’s current understanding.  The left column (question mark) means he or she can tell you nothing about the word or formula.  For example, if it is a vocabulary word, the student is not able to use it accurately in reading, writing, speaking or listening.  If he or she can do some of what was mentioned, the student puts it in the middle.  Once students are able to complete the item based on your identified expectations, they can put it on the far right.

Try It!

So, go ahead and try it next week!  Have your students put their sticky notes where they currently are for their learning and in about a week or two, have them check their understanding and move the sticky notes accordingly.  Best part, have each celebrate the growth they have made when they get to move the sticky notes!  Confidence—yes!

P.S.  Explore more strategies in Brain-Powered Strategies to Engage All Learners and in the new series, Brain-Powered Lessons to Engage All Learners.