Episode 75 4 steps to an engaging lesson

Show Notes

Key Point #1: The learner

  • Level of understanding
  • Interests

Key Point #2: Hook

  • The first 3 seconds matter
  • How will you start the lesson?
  • Provocations work well:
    • Interesting image
    • Questions that cannot be answered
    • Video clip
    • A quote
  • Creative:
    • Remember entering my classroom through a tunnel when studying mountains
    • Play a new or related game
    • Put them in a scene 

Key Point #3: Story

  • Humans are built for story. We love them.
  • Build upon your hook with a story
    • Connect the story to you or better your students
    • Make it authentic
    • Build the drama and suspense

Key Point #4: Activity

  • Provide the next steps
  • Differentiate them
    • Allow for voice and choice
    • Allow different speeds
    • Set challenges as formative assessment
    • Collaboration, practical, creative, 
  • Gamify it (everyone can ‘win’) competition might start well, but doesn’t end well


Dan: (00:00)
Well, hi everyone. And welcome to the effective teaching podcast. I am your host, Dan Jackson. I just resigned from being deputy principal in order to focus on helping teachers around the world, improve their skills in this beautiful art or this craft of teaching. I am a passionate teacher. And if you are to come and connect with me on social media, my handle is @DanJacksonTPD. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook with Twitter and Instagram with that handle, or you can come and just find TeachersPD on Facebook. I would love to connect with you. I have groups on Facebook as well, that you’re welcome to come and join, including the effective teaching podcast community come and connect with me. I would love to help you to continue to improve and impact your students. Well, today’s episode 75 and we’re looking at some four basic steps that can really help you to engage your students in your classroom and make sure that they are learning.

Dan: (01:01)
Now, I’m going to start by saying upfront. This is not about having fun lessons, right? That can be part of engagement, but there’s more to engagement than just having something that’s fun. So the first point I wanted to mention is that you need to know your learners. You need to know your students who are in front of you. Do you know their levels of understanding? Do you know their interests because they are really important for when you’re trying to engage the students in your classroom, you need to bring in those interests and connect them for your students. And you need to know where they’re at and meet them at the point at which they are and tell them what’s next and progress them forward. Just one step, right? You don’t need to tell them to move forward. Six steps. Let’s go. Your next step is this.

Dan: (01:42)
And let’s work on that. And then when they get there, celebrate it, that kind of stuff. The next point is it. You want to hook your students into your lessons. Now, a hook point, it’s really the first three seconds in any lesson matters. And if you think about that, I want you to think through what currently happens in the first three seconds in your classroom. And that could be, you know, I’ve taught at schools where the first chunk of time in the classroom is students walking in quietly steady behind their chairs, marking a role sitting down, uh, or it could be kids slowly coming in bits and pieces, your pack, getting stuff out, setting up, and it’s taking a while. That can be the first five minutes even of your lesson and your students haven’t started doing anything. So your hook is about, as your students come into your classroom, how will you start your lesson?

Dan: (02:37)
Right? And have them get hooked into learning right from the beginning, provocations work really well for this. And a provocation is basically just anything that provokes a response from your students that connects to the learning that’s about to happen. Okay. So it could be an interesting image. You could do like a see, think wonder type thing, or you might have questions that can’t really be answered easily, that you start, okay. As you enter the room on the board, you’ve written a question and you want the students to get in pairs and discuss their answers to that question and what they can come up with and then pair should get together and discuss it in fours. That’ll then give you time to set everything up, but it gets the students engaged and hooked into learning straight away. You could have a video clip that the students are going to watch as they come in.

Dan: (03:23)
You can have a quote that’s up there, that’s inspiring or something. That’s going to draw your students into what they’re about to do. Okay. Particularly if you’re looking at, you know, for English, if they’re looking at a novel or poetry or something, if you pull something out of that, that is inspirational or that just provokes a response. Right. And then start by getting the response to that and then go, okay, go back to the beginning, go through the scene or whatever it is in the novel or the whole poem that you’re looking at to lay it all out and have them then come to some kind of end point with what you’re doing. Right. But this, I do have a provocation that gets the students interested in curious about what’s going on in your classroom. You can also be creative here with your point. So I remember entering my classroom, then I would have to enter it through this tunnel that would wind, you know, went for like five meters through the classroom.

Dan: (04:14)
And I had to go through this tunnel because we were studying mountains or something at the time. And so it was like you were going into a mine or something like that. Uh, and it, I just, I remember that as you enter the classroom, you will, you remember what you were about to learn, right? And it’s setting things up. You could have things set up in your classroom so that when your students open your door or something like, Oh my goodness, like I’ve just entered. Not necessarily new world, but yeah. They’ve entered something that’s interesting for them. And that they’re going to actually look around and go, what’s going on or what’s going on miss? And you can go up, this is what we’re doing. Get stuck into this. I want you to see what you can find funds. You know, you could even just have, I remember doing lessons where I just had a particular pieces or questions maybe written out on, um, pieces of paper.

Dan: (04:58)
I told them, as they entered quietly, walk around the room with a pen, you have to make comments and it ask each other’s questions, answer each other’s questions, but you can’t talk to each other for the first little while. And then I would go through what they wrote and have a look at what they’d written and respond to what was coming out, right? That’s, that’s a, that’s a visible thinking kind of routine. Uh, you can also play a new game maybe, or you’re going to play a related game. So if you’re studying finances and stuff, you might not have guys come in. We gonna play monopoly, right. They come in, they play monopoly. And then you’re going to talk about finances and all that kind of stuff and how it might impact. And you can draw things out of that game, uh, or it could even be just putting them into a scene.

Dan: (05:38)
Maybe they’re gonna walk into your classroom. And there’s like, you know, clothes from the pull-on to get ready for a scene to act, or maybe you’ve just got something that’s set up that just is drawing their eyes and engage in them, right from the beginning of your lesson. And I think that is really important to hook your students in at the beginning for their engagement, right? You don’t want to waste time allowing students to get distracted for you to then have to draw them back in, okay. As they come into classroom, engage them straight away.

The point 3 is the story tape. Humans generally are built for story. As people tell stories, or they tell narrative draws people in, particularly if you can build suspense and drama around that. And that’s why the film industry and why novels and stuff. That’s why they’re such a big business. Okay? Because the human spirit, I guess, is it’s built for that. It’s built for being part of the story. We love hearing stories. And so you can get stories into your lesson from here and you want to build upon your hook with your story.

So connect the story to you or better yet connect it to your students, right? Find a story that relates directly to them. And particularly if you know a student and something that might be ha may have happened in the background, you can maybe draw upon that without specific reference to the student as part of your story. I mean, this is really easy for my subject PDHPE. Uh, particularly when you’re looking at, you know, uh, students making healthy, active choice, like choices that influence their life and you go, okay, and you just start telling a story is setting up a scene and then you give them choices and you can build out this whole narrative process based on your kind of a choose your own adventure thing with your students.

Dan: (07:24)
You can help to make this authentic for your students, make it connect to the real world and build the drama, build the suspense, whenever there’s things that are starting to go wrong. It start to lay out a bit more detail, a few more details in your stories and use your stories to teach part of your point that you’ve done to be addressing throughout that day. The other thing you can do with your stories as well is to really think about how it can link into why they’re learning, what they’re learning in that lesson that day. So if you can have a story that shows someone making a really poor decision that impacted their life and then go, okay, well today we’re learning about why that decision was bad and how to make good decisions, whatever, right? That have something that can might even link into the why for their learning.

Dan: (08:11)
And the last point, the step four for having an engaged classroom is your activity, right? So providing the next steps here for your students, from the story and make sure that these activities are differentiated. And this is really where knowing your students comes into its own, because when you’re differentiating here, if you can make differentiation really easy by allowing students to have voice and choice in what they choose to do, how they choose to do it, what they end up producing, that kind of stuff, you can also allow different speeds of learning. Uh, so if you were listening to the book club episode from Wednesday this week, I talked about how you can flip your classroom and use a mastery approach in that that allows your students to progress at their own pace. You could use something like that in here for, but you just want something that allows students to go deeper.

Dan: (08:59)
Maybe they can get through this bit faster than they do this activity to having that set up well, as good as set challenges for your students as formative assessment. So they don’t just go, I’m just going to check what you know, go, Hey guys, I have a challenge for you. Can you do this? Can you find out this? And if you present it as a challenge, you tend to get better engagement. You can also set up a learning activities or the collaboration activities where the students are working together. Now, when you do that, you need to do that well, right? So you need to actually talk about how to do collaboration. Who’s doing what, making sure the activity is hard so that they can’t just have one student do it really easily. And the other one’s bludge, right? You need to make sure that collaboration is there. You can have practical activities, or you can make things that are creative and the students can work together to create something right now. One thing I do want to warn you about, I guess,

Speaker 2: (09:49)
Is people think that

Dan: (09:52)
That by gamifying their classroom, it’s increasing engagement. Now jelly, what I find is that if you gameify something and it is competition-based, it generally might start well, but it’s not going to end. Well, generally at the end, someone wins, someone loses or lots of people lose. And it disengages students from future activities, because if they are constantly losing and particularly students who are constantly winning, then you’re setting it up so that your students can easily compare themselves to each other. And that is actually a massive negative motivator for students. Whereas if you make it harder for them to compare, to compare against each other, but make it more beneficial for them to work together or more beneficial for them to focus on their progress in learning, or you want to start to that, maybe everyone can actually achieve the goal if they work hard. Right?

Dan: (10:50)
So I remember being in a school where they used to give out sports awards, but they didn’t give out a, you know, you’re the top sports person and you’re the second top sports person. They had a point system. So you would get a gold, um, sports award. If you earn a certain amount of points. And there was a point system for how many sports you participated in or won and all that kind of stuff, I think it had points. And that would, so there could be 20 students that would get a gold or there could be 40 students got a silver. And so yes, there is still in within that a sense where they can compare against each other, but we’ll also set up so that lots of people could succeed and win. And it wasn’t a competition of I’m going to beat you. It was actually a competition of I’m working to achieve the next level, which is slightly different. It’s actually the way that games are created, where you are looking to get to the next level, the next level, and the next level. You’re not always comparing yourself against the person who’s next to you and you can pick them.

Well, let me give you a very quick summary of this episode. So you want to meet your students where they are at the end to know who they are, their interests, what they already know and build from there. You want to hook them into your lessons right at the beginning, do not waste time. Okay. Tell a story, get them engaged through narrative, through your own personal story or a story that connects with them at link. Make sure that story links into the learning. Don’t just have a story for the sake of the story, link it into the learning that’s happening in your classroom and provide a great activity for your students that really engages and is authentic for them. And the better you can differentiate that activity, the more engaged your students will be. Nope. I hope you enjoyed the episode. This is episode 75. So she would like the show notes. You can head over to teacherspd.net/75 to have a look at the shownotes, you can see the transcript there as well. Make sure you also subscribe to the podcast because next week it’s all about developing rapport with your students. And I hope that you come and listen to me then. Thank you so much.

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