On Oct. 19 we had 55 teachers meeting for the day at Maggie and Skaha Lake. The focus of the day was on active, hands-on and meaningful tasks to engage all our learners. The sessions included tableaus, project based learning, how to use novelty and variety in the classroom to change things up, mask making, white boards and technology - (including digital cameras, comic life and movie making). Teachers who were not part of the project began to understand what we are trying to do in the project, and those in the project learned new skills and ways to engage students. The response overall was great, and the day flew by.
What was interesting to me as I moved from session to session was the active engagement of the teachers and the laughter in a number of sessions. Everyone seemed to be having fun or listening intently. Teachers were working together to create tableaus, working independently to make a comic and sharing and laughing with others, or asking questions and being curious. By the end of the day we saw samples of movies about their staffs, magazine covers made with digital cameras, masks and comics. We heard conversations about how to use these activities/strategies from kindergarten to grade 12 - in electives and content areas, and we had comments like "come here and look at this", "this is so much fun!" ... it sounded a lot like kids!
It was great to see people taking risks and trying things they might not normally expose themselves to. Why? Because they know that some of their students would love to be involved and learning in these ways. For many of our students these kinds of activities help them to connect with school - they become engaged and interested; they want to participate; they enjoy themselves. Eric Jensen in his book "Teaching with Poverty in Mind" shares research that shows that when kids are engaged in learning - the negative behaviour in the class decreases. He talks about engaging instruction as "any strategy that gets students to participate emotionally, cognitively, or behaviourally. Engagement happens when you as an instructional leader stimulate, motivate, and activate. Engagement can result from fun games, intellectual challenges, social interactions and your own enthusiasm" (p 134). One of the premises of his book is that kids in poverty come to school with many disadvantages behaviourally and academically, but we can change and influence this in many ways. One, of a number of strategies, is through providing engaging classroom practice which "includes them and their interests in the process" (p. 134).
by Judith King