Friday, May 30, 2014

Motivate & activate!


1. occupy, attract, or involve (someone's interest or attention)
2. participate or become involved in

How can I motivate my students to take interest in their learning? Is there a way to "ignite" their attention and activate their participation? These are questions I often ask myself as I'm preparing my lessons.

At times I think I over-plan (or over-think) the various possibilities that could occur during a learning experience, but I believe it's also the same personal characteristic that allows me to be flexible and change direction on the spot if needed. Student motivation and active learning are topics I'm interested in continuing to learn about in the summer class I'm taking in a couple weeks.


I may not look like a pirate, but I'm beginning to learn about how to teach like one! Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is an inspiring, creative book that helped to transform my thinking about teaching, even in the last few months of the school year when it's easy to lose heart at times about making a difference. I would highly recommend it to all teachers.

In his book, Dave Burgess describes how to increase student engagement by finding your inner pirate:
P = Passion
I  = Immersion
R = Rapport
A = Ask & Analyze
T = Transformation
E = Enthusiasm
Using hooks to capture your students' attention and interest can be the perfect way to engage students and motivate them to be involved in what is about to happen.

A few hooks that I have used include music (songs, background music, or noises related to the topic), pictures (actual photographs, slide shows, or pictures projected onto the screen), props (such as an umbrella during our water cycle lesson), and teasers or mysteries (see below).

Shortly after spring break, we were reading and learning about friendship and the negative effects of gossip. To get the class interested in a key concept, I hid a message in an envelope that would be opened a few days later (teaser). It resulted in the students talking and guessing what it could be, which is exactly what I hoped would happen -- I had their attention!

The "riddle" was answered when we opened the attached envelope.
We had a great discussion about the meaning of the quote and how it related to our study. In addition, we did an activity during which I had the students create their own personal drawings and pictures and we crumpled each other's creations to show how the wrinkles never quite come out, even though you may try hard to straighten them. 

Earlier this week, I wrapped a mystery box to attempt to increase the suspense surrounding a fun, group science experiment that would take place. It was fun for the students to guess what we were doing after asking to pick up the box and getting clues to its contents.

Inside, the students found a ruler, paper towels, plastic tablecloth, and a raw egg!
After opening, the students had an "egg-cellent" brainstorming session about the egg drop experiment that would take place the next day. Lists were made and students went home really excited to put their plans together.

Above: Parachute group and Blue box group
Not only did the students participate in a great experiment of trial and error, they also used their social skills, accountable group talk, and team-building skills we have been working on this year. And the way they cheered for the unbroken eggs....... you would have thought they just opened the best present ever!

Hooking students into the lesson = the first step in what can become an excellent learning opportunity!


  1. Jen-- I love how you take a book like TLAP and apply instantly, but something tells me you've been doing that all along. I love your ideas to hook the students. My favorite is the riddle--and the idea that you wrinkle a papers and the "bruises" never disappear. That was always my opening week activity. Great post!

  2. Hi Jen, There is a new blogging award that is going around now to help promote blogs, especially new blogs. It's called "The Liebster Award". I nominate your blog because I love how you've jumped in, especially at the end of a busy school year! Here's some more info

  3. Building suspense for future activities - love it. It's like Christmas, and it alerts kids to get excited because it shows you're looking forward to something, too. I wonder how often kids don't think about the elaborate instructional sequence we have to plan for and instead, just assume we're making it up on our whims for the week.