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Student Engagement Problems? Perhaps we can look at the Arts.

Introducing The Sunday Pause. Sundays are usually the days I really knuckle down on the planning for the week. However, before my daughters wake up and I’ve got a moment to myself, I pour myself a coffee and read articles that I bookmarked throughout the week. These articles can sometimes influence my planning for the week.


Title: Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic

Source: The Atlantic

Author: Jessica Lahey

This week’s is a particular favourite of mine since it is so applicable and can make a world of difference to your student engagement. Here are 5 key points I got from it:

1. You are the symbol of the subject. Whenever the student hears about your subject, generally your image will pop in their heads. Therefore, our presence in the class matters.

2. Unfortunately, we are not really taught how to be a performer in front of our class. We are taught to classroom manage through behavioural techniques, we are taught the theories of pedagogy, however I do not recall being taught how to engage a class. For students to really learn, they need to be engaged, it is almost as if we need to sell our subject matter to our kids. We need to ensure they buy into our message.

3. The author compared learning with magic. Magic confuses us, it goes against our understanding of the world, i.e.: “where did that rabbit come from?” In essence, it makes us uncomfortable, yet astonished at the same time. This connects with a constructivist approach to learning where confusion is the catalyst for meaning making. We are then in an active pursuit to create meaning with this new experience.

4. How can we make our students fall in love with our subject? I liked the way the author linked the word ‘romance’ with education. She mentions that romance can turn apathy to interest. The author interviewed Teller, a former Latin teacher but currently the other half of the magical duo, Penn & Teller. What Teller lacked in physical presence, he made up for in, as he mentions, ‘delight’. That excitement and love for our subject matter needs to be undisguised, that enthusiasm will pass onto the kids.

5. Enthusiasm from our part plays a big role in making the students love our subject. However, I do believe that making our lessons relevant to their lives is necessary as well. The recent explosion of Parkour could hold a bit more interest than that of the traditional approach of teaching gymnastics. Could you give the kids a choice? Perhaps rather than teaching the students a formal game of basketball for their invasion games unit, they could engage in playground type of games that have elements of basketball in it? Throughout all of this, we need to be enthusiastic and have a genuine belief that our subject matter can make a difference in our students’ lives.

If this really spoke to you and would like to read the full article. Here is the link:

Why am I wearing a unicorn head? Our school campus is closed until further notice due to the global virus crisis. So, here I was filming an online grade 1 video lesson. There was no form of classic art in it, but there was plenty of delight. My students loved it.

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