Engaging students has a variety of topographical looks but one definition: active minds having to adapt, negotiate, problem solve and produce. Student engagement is essential to deeper more complex learning. As you consider curriculum, look for ways to deliver information without being the primary source of that information. One way to create a fully student-engaged learning environment is to allow students to explore content in four brain-based learning areas:
- Imagination: Students explore content by creating digital or non-digital products where the only expectation is that they create some imaginative resource or connection to the content. An example of a product in this area might be exploring geometric solids as both closed and netted figures and creating a digitally annotated representation of them. Apps like 3D Geometry and Skitch, or EduCreations, are excellent for this type of learning.
- Curiosity: Students discover and explore a variety of examples of the content and develop “wonder questions” which will guide their research about the content. An example of this learning might be a display of various tools used to measure. Students explore the tools and ask questions like, “Why is a ruler divided into 12 inches when our number system is primarily base ten?”
- Adaptation: Students create new content and collaborate with others (both inside and outside the classroom) using their research, exploration and discovery. Blogging, ePals, Skype, coding and gaming are all excellent choice for this area. An example might be that students co-create a Minecraft EDU world depicting and explaining the Civil War.
- Passion: Students become creative through their passions and use content to share their learning of the content. We define passion as, “that which we are willing to endure because it is important to us.” An example of this area might be a student who is passionate about animal rights might create a PSA for their cause by connecting the important concepts they have learned to that cause.
Joli Barker is an elementary educator at Press Elementary in McKinney, TX. Barker is best known for her innovative classroom model and her book, The Fearless Classroom: A Practical Guide to Experiential Learning Environments. She is an internationally recognized educator who has received several awards and recognitions including Microsoft Expert Educator, TCEA Classroom Teacher of the Year, and NSBA’s “20 to Watch”.
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