When we watch a film, read a book or go to a play, invariably something happens in the first 60-90 seconds to set the scene, create tension, expose a problem or state a purpose. In short, we are ‘hooked in’, we are invested, we want to know more. When we feel this excitement to learn more, we are also more likely to enjoy the content or experience that follows.
When I reflect upon my early years of teaching, I realise that too often I was overly pedantic in my introductions. I recall that I often took a few minutes to get to the point of the lesson, by which time it was too late – many of my students had simply switched off. I find that once students disengage, it is very difficult to recover any equilibrium or energy for the remainder of the lesson. Would you agree?
So, what can we do to avoid this? How can we engage our students from the moment the lesson begins? How can we regularly use thinking tools to ‘hook’ our students’ attention and get them excited to contribute in class? Here are four steps I encourage you to weave into your teaching practice today. Soon your students will trust you to pique their attention every time they enter your classroom.
HOW TO ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM THE GET-GO
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO THE THINK:PAIR:SHARE THINKING TOOL
STEP 1: Always start your lesson with a clearly defined challenge. Don’t be wishy washy about the learning intention. For example, you could present a graph, a map, an advertisement, a profit and loss sheet, a stanza from a poem, a maths equation.
STEP 2: Next, ask your students to consider the challenge and find three co-ordinates, three positions, three examples of persuasion, two reasons to be concerned about the business, three instances of personification or alliteration and, finally, one obvious error in the equation.
STEP 3: To add some structure, explain to your students that they have four minutes to respond and that they should work in pairs and employ a simple Think:Pair:Share thinking tool. The Think:Pair:Share works as follows.
Think: No talking. Students simply look at the stimulus material and complete the task. For example, in the graph example, find and record the three co-ordinates.
Pair: The two members of each pair tell each other what they discovered and then see if they can refine their thinking together.
Share: The teacher asks certain pairs for their responses. These responses are written on the board and the teacher can discuss these ideas with the class.
STEP 4: Teachers, you can now introduce the lesson and explain how the challenge using the Think:Pair:Share leads into the lesson. Remember that Ownership leads to Motivation. Therefore, if you can show your students that what they have achieved is an integral part of the lesson that is to follow, they will have more motives/reasons to be part of that lesson and get excited about their learning.
Will you give it a go? Enjoy making this process your own!
By Eric Frangenheim
(Feature photo of clouds: Yosh Ginsu, Unsplash.com)
(Cartoon below: Wolf Wildwood)