Engaging Learners Starts The First Day Of School

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flickeringbrad-students-boredby Dawn Casey-Rowe, Social Studies Teacher & Learnist Evangelist

It was the first day of schooI.

I came down to the cafeteria. The students, freshly off the bus, were sitting motionless at tables. It’s the one day of the year they’re quiet.  Each table was marked with the number of an advisory group. My advisory graduated last year so I was getting a new crew.

I welcomed them.

“Hi.” I pointed to the name tag I’d made. “I’m Mrs. Casey-Rowe. You’re stuck with me for the next four years for advisory. You need advice, you come to me. You need to make friends, you look at these people here. We’ll be like a family. Any problems with anything, you find me right away. Got that? We’ll have fun.”

They started to smile. One or two talked, and the ice was broken.

“We come to you every day?” one girl asked.

“Yes.” I reply. She smiled. The day had officially begun.

A little later, groups of students began to arrive in my classroom, not yet screaming about forgotten books, pencils not lost, schedules crinkled in hand.

“Welcome, thanks for coming. Sit anywhere you like, plenty of seats.” There will be no assigned seating here. It’s the only day the class won’t look like a tornado hit it by the end of the day.

I asked the question–the one I always ask first. “Who loves social studies?” Not many people raise their hand, maybe one or two.  I ask them, “Do you really, or are you just trying to get an A?” Sometimes they laugh and retract their hand, other times they say, “No, I love social studies, Miss.”

“Well, you’re my new favorite student.” That’s not true–they’re all my favorite student.

“Who hates school?” I asked. A number of kids raised their hand, some so high they came clear out of their chair. One reminded me of Horshak in Welcome Back Kotter.

Another kid stared me down. He must be the real deal in school hating. I could tell by the garb and the laser-precision glare. I Googled his name to see if he’d written any material on this–he looked like he could be my expert. He knew he was going to hate this class.

I made a mental note to ask him if he still did sometime before Christmas.

School has to be engaging to be effective. On the first day of school I watch students, some full of hope, others resigned to four more years of boredom, hating what school has become for them–an endless stream of monotony, teaching 21st century kids with policies from the Dark Ages. Some look excited to see their friends, and others say, “School’s not for me.”

Students at all levels must see the connection between the lesson and life. Sometimes, this is a matter of jazzing up an essential subject, and other times, students may need more choice, more technology, and more freedom to explore. Enjoy some of these Learnist boards on the subject of teaching exciting things and engaging students. If you love them, participate in the conversation by following @LearnistTweets on Twitter, and liking Learnist on Facebook.

5 Learnist Resources on Engaging Learners

Daring to Imagine Utopia: Actively Engaging Students in Social Creativity

Students love to imagine the way life should be and they get very passionate sometimes about the way it is. Having students create the perfect environment, then discussing problems with keeping it that way gives them more empathy for policy leaders, government officials, and issues of social justice. Sometimes they discover they can make a difference.

How Wild is New York City

I went to the Science Online Teen conference this past spring, where Teens mixed with some of the nation’s top scientists. This seminar was entirely engaging. It brought things that are right outside the door to life, showing students how they can provide data to help crowdshared research, look at local wildlife issues, and notice changes in their environment that have larger implications.

Vsauce

A side conversation with a student about the national economy led to my discovery of Vsauce, which takes any subject, really, and makes it engaging.

Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips

When you can’t get out of your room or the snow’s piled high, students can still take Discovery Education’s virtual field trips. Field trips are an important component of the school experience, and unfortunately I, personally, don’t have the opportunity to do many of them. Therefore, it’s essential I open the world in other ways.

Fun Math Videos for the Classroom

Math is a love it or leave it subject for many students–something that evokes passionate response. It should be useful for all. These are some math videos that make it real, and real fun.

Engaging Learners Starts The First Day Of School; image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad