Engaging Teaching Strategies #4
Three more strategies that I wouldn’t be without. The first is a wonderdrug for improving poor quality sentence structures; the second is the pragmatic in-situ application of teaching’s two favourite theories; and the third involves hands on manipulation of a cheap and long-lasting resource that stimulates discussion.
Injection of conjunctions to improve sentences (especially “which”)
A dead simple, quick and effective way to challenge and differentiate on the hoof. When students are writing and you are monitoring their work, slip them interesting connectives to extend sentences and make writing more interesting. Students need to realise that what they write on the page is a reflection of what’s happening in their minds and so the more complex and developed the writing is the higher level of thinking they are demonstrating. Key ones are “although” used at the start of a sentence and “which” tagged on at the end, forcing the student to qualify the point.
Knowledge of Bloom’s and SOLO to advise spontaneous questioning
This is an essential part of any good teacher’s toolkit. It allows us to quickly work out what level a student is working at and what we need to do to push them up to the next level. I go to the extent of drawing them on my classroom windows in coloured liquid chalk pens so that I can refer to them during lessons and so that students also use them in reflecting on their own learning. The constant presence of the SOLO symbols is especially useful for this type of meta-cognitive exercise and allows students to take control over their own learning by working out how they could get to the next level.
Magic post-its on the whiteboard
I blogged on this around Christmas time (much to @oldandrew’s disgust). You can use them in many different ways for lots of different activities. I used them to facilitate a discussion based on Heroes and students historical and geographical knowledge. When Larry LaSalle disappears, I asked students to make an educated guess at where he had gone and be prepared to justify their ideas. The each wrote their idea on a magic post-it and stuck them in a horizontal line on the board. Once all the post-its were up, students had to rearrange the horizontal line into a vertical line based around the likelihood of each destination. Each time they moved a post-it they had to explain and justify the move. The post-its provide a vehicle for stimulating and engaging discussion and the format of the task introduced an element of competition but forced students to really think about what they were doing.