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How do You Make Learning Engaging?

How can we create learning opportunities that the students will find enjoyable and meaningful?  How can we transform our lessons into interactive and relevant activities?  

Following yesterday’s entry regarding how to motivate and challenge all of my science students, I spent the evening reflecting and working.  The best way to challenge my students is to create projects and experiences which engage them in meaningful and relevant ways.  I need them to want to learn in order to accomplish a task.  I need to take the ideas behind gaming and revolutionize the way I teach.  In order to challenge my students, I have to allow them to want to be challenged.  So, I started thinking, How can I make this happen?  

Then, I tried something.  I created an extensions phase for my Earth’s Layers unit.  I generated various projects and activities the students could choose to complete when they finished working on the other, required, phases of the unit.  If they successfully completed any of the extension projects prior to the day of the unit test, they would receive extra credit in Science.  I brainstormed ideas about projects that would allow them to extend their thinking and dig deeper into Earth and its many parts.  I figured an inquiry research project would offer those interested students a chance to ask those burning questions about the topics covered and then learn as much about them as possible.  Then I was stuck.  What else can I offer my students who work ahead?  How can I best challenge all of my students?

They love watching videos.  So, why not create a learning experience that allows them to watch some appropriate science videos.  That’s how I created the Youtube Learning project, which has the students choosing interesting and reputable videos on Youtube and then watching them.  They will then summarize their learning in writing.  I figured this project would interest those students who learn best by watching.  At this point, the ideas just came flowing.  

I created a project that will allow the students to create a digital and interactive game on their computers.  Many of my students are very intrigued by technology and computers.  So, what better way to stimulate the boys than by offering them a chance to make something they love playing, computer games.  I then threw in a few more offerings to inspire their creativity.  

So, there I was, feeling pretty excited about what I had created.  I had found a way to provide my students with some engaging projects to extend their thinking.  What if even this didn’t work to inspire all of my students?  Then what?  Well, I figured I would cross that rope bridge if necessary.  So, yeah.  I was worried.  What if my students didn’t find any of my ideas engaging or challenging?  What if they don’t allow my students to really dig deeper into the content?  As I fell asleep last night, these thoughts and more danced in my head like tiny mushrooms.  While I was super psyched, I was also trying to balance the good feelings with reality.  I didn’t want today to pop my balloon.  Plus, I hate balloons.  They are really scary.  Who thinks its cool to fill a piece of plastic with air and carry it around on a string?  It’s just ludicrous.

When I explained the new phase to the students today in class, smiles covered their faces and expressions of joy filled the air.  They were excited.  I heard many of them already select which project they would choose first.  Yes, I thought.  They love it.  I piqued their interest and crafted a phase that would be engaging to many.  I just hope the challenge is enough.  As the boys begin to work on the projects, I will reassess.  But for now, I’m riding on cloud nine. 

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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