How do we keep our lessons engaging? Does innovation play a part in this?
Teachers have their own methods of keeping students engaged in their lessons. In my opinion, I think it depends on their personality, interests, and cultural knowledge. I currently teach in the school I graduated high school from, which is almost 100% Alaska Native. I’ve also taught in urban schools (Anchorage and Fairbanks). In my experience, it is easier to engage those students who share the same cultural background than those who don’t. I engage my students by incorporating our Yup’ik culture and having them make those cultural connections outside of school to my curriculum content.
I agree with what author Burgess explains in his book, Teach Like a Pirate, how a person is not born with creative skills, a person gains those skills through practice and years of experience (location 618). Even if a teacher doesn’t share the same cultural knowledge or background of their students, they can still find ways to engage their class. For instance, Burgess explains incorporating kinesthetic activities (location 1167) for times when your class is lingering on and needs more energy. I like the idea of getting students out of their desks at least once during each lesson. I teach K-1 and if I can get my kids out of their seats during each subject, I know they’ll be more engaged and likely to complete the task.
Last year, my mentor teacher introduced me to “K-5 Energizers,” I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to. It’s a guide for teachers on how to integrate movement and physical activity into your curriculum content. Last year with my fourth grade class, I did something called “Brain Breaks.” I used keepvid.com to download Just Dance for Kids on YouTube and during each passing period I played a song. My class got a chance to get out of out their desks and move around and dance. They loved it so much, I would get requests to which song to play, and when I didn’t make it to school, they would tell me the next day how much they missed their brain breaks.
Another hook Burgess uses in his book is “The Picasso Hook,” (location 1241). I try to incorporate art into all my subject areas, but sometimes it takes up a lot of time. I’ve decided that Friday’s are my art days where I have my students’ exercise their imagination in all subject areas (L.A., math, Yup’ik, spelling…)
To me innovation means a lot of things. When I think of innovation, I think of how I’m keeping up with current trends and events, technology, and my students’ likes and dislikes. Burgess talks about building student rapport (location 341) and how learning what interests them is key to keeping them engaged. If I know what interests my students outside of school, what games they play on their iPads or tablets, I can incorporate those into my daily lessons. If I am fluent and up-to-date with technology as an individual, I can use my knowledge and expertise to teach with technology. I think it’s important because my students can go beyond our classroom, village and state, and learn more and connect with those classes across the country or in other parts of the world.
Burgess, D. (2012). Teach like a pirate: Increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator.
Energizers, Classroom-based Physical Activities. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2015, from http://www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com/Energizers/Texts/K-5-Energizers.pdf
KeepVid: Download YouTube Videos, Facebook, Vimeo, Twitch.Tv, Dailymotion, Youku, Tudou, Metacafe and more! (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2015, from http://keepvid.com