Teachers always have to be at the top of their game. If you are looking for a classroom to go into to watch true student engagement go into a Kindergarten classroom, really!!!! What is it about K-2 that keeps students so engaged in learning? And 3-6 is a close second, but once students enter seventh grade and then the transition to high school….we lose them. Why? Here are five things that I have noticed that change between primary and secondary education:
1. Meet them where they are! Primary teachers take great pride in differentiation and meeting the needs of multiple levels of students. As a middle school teacher, my response to that would have been, well they don’t have as many levels to catch them up on I have k-6 kinder teachers only have preschool and kindergarten. WRONG!!!!! Kinder teachers have multiple levels too some students come in unable to recognize ANY letters, shapes or colors and some come reading and doing simple math. That is a huge gap when a teacher is setting the ground work for numeracy and literacy. Meet them where they are!
2. Make your classroom visually engaging! If you were to line up 4 classrooms primary, upper primary, middle school and high school classrooms in a row and walk into each one, what would you say would be the biggest difference? YES!!! What the room looks like. Primary teachers engage their students in learning by flooding their classroom with things students of that age would want to look at to learn. If you have never worked at the elementary level you would be AMAZED at the time teachers put into their classroom, they see it as an extension of their lesson plans, not something that needs to be decorated.
3. Subjects must be at the STUDENT’s interest level. In one of our resource articles this week from US News and World Report there is a great example of how a high school teacher ties in Romeo and Juliet to the student’s interest level. Everything in the primary grades is done by interest level, children count apples, animals and bikes. Really what more in life does an eight year old need. So in the middle and high school levels make EVERYTHING about what they are interested in, if you don’t know “Google” It!!
4. Smile and know your students. This one the primary teachers have it easier, they simply have less students. Unfortunately for middle and high school teachers it just doesn’t matter, why? Because relationships is what engages students. Even though you have four to six times that amount of students the primary teachers have…..it’s a must. The need doesn’t disappear because you have more students. Use interest surveys, on-line surveys, index cards, two truths and a lie, whatever you need to do to get to know your students…..DO IT!
5. Include students in planning. Project based learning is becoming more popular, why? Because it is engaging to students especially middle and high school students. Let students choose projects with specific guidelines. It is much more engaging to learn things together than to just pour out information.
If you have other engagement ideas, please share it with our Key Classroom’s community.