Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Active Engagement

One of my primary concerns in my classroom is whether or not my students are engaged in their learning. It is accepted that if our students are not engaged in their learning that our students will return home each night without comprehending the skills or concepts presented each day and will not know how to apply these skills to future learning. This problem is exacerbated when students need to recall previous learning to be successful in their current studies but cannot. Speaking with colleagues, I have ascertained that as teachers we sometimes feel that it is easier to move along in our teaching and never mind the children who are constantly off task and probably won't "get it" anyway. I feel this is a major downfall in many classrooms and schools today and a contributing factor as to why so many of our students are grade levels behind their like age peers. Many teachers rebuttal my thoughts and make the claim that we now have interventions and associated teachers in place for such children. I say that it doesn’t matter if they are in intervention if they are not engaged in their learning there either, and I am still receiving students that are years behind their counterparts and have been in intervention for a couple years. Additionally, wouldn’t it be dreamy if we didn’t need interventions to begin with? So what do we do? How do we make sure that we are not simply passing students along to the next level of learning without the knowledge to be successful? After reading studies, observing classrooms, and being a teacher myself, I believe that effective active engagement is a great part of the solution.
It really makes me contemplate each day after school when I feel that student engagement for the day's lessons did not meet my expectations as to what I can do differently tomorrow to get even one more student truly involved in our lessons. As I have mentioned before, my classroom is composed of quite the eclectic group when it comes to reading and comprehension ability. To combat this issue, I have been utilizing every active engagement strategy I learn about so long as it is fitting in my lessons. To mitigate the hyperactive tendencies that results in a loss of focus in my classroom, I have recently been trying to work in as much physical movement into my lessons as possible.
Most recently, as our class engages in a read aloud or choral reading, I have been having my students act out all of the action verbs that we come across in our reading. This action might look different from student to student, as we do not stop our reading to practice together, and some students’ actions are more subtle than others, but my students have been responding really well to this engagement activity. Students are beginning to ask, “Can we do that thing where we act out our reading, please!” Not only are my students excited for these lessons, they are gaining more from these lessons as reflected in our follow-up discussions and lesson work. Not to mention, my students now identify and act out every single action verb they come across whether we are in the room engaged in a lesson or walking down the hall to PE. What a great sight to see!
As my teaching continuously evolves, I hope to find just the right balance and combination of active engagement strategies to ensure that every one of my students, regardless of their current ability, get the most out of their education and me as their teacher. We owe it to our children to provide the most outstanding education from the moment they step through the door their first day of kindergarten and every single day thereafter, and active engagement is one way to ensure that we do just that. Maybe, once our students enjoy the learning process and are truly engaged in their learning from day one, intervention will be a practice of the past and our students will enjoy the knowledge they have gained and all they can do with it.

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