When it comes to classroom engagement, the first and last 4 minutes of your class matter the most.
As a teacher, kids are the toughest audience you’ll ever have. Holding their attention is difficult enough, but getting it in the first place can be trickiest of all. In Music performance classes, we are reminded that we grab our audience at the very first note, and that they will also remember the last thing we play. Great stories do this as do well-written plays, and so it should be with our lesson planning.
By envisioning what it is we want to see our students doing in the end, we can chart a course toward classroom engagement that’s guaranteed to be memorable.
Classroom Engagement: The End
What do you want to observe your learners performing as you end the class? What’s your trademark ace that you’ll pull out of your sleeve to get them to remember your class?
- Have your students search online for images that encapsulate the main points of the lesson, then display them as an animated collage in Keynote.
- End a music class with a piece that students are familiar with and love to play, but with improvements that came as a result of being better informed.
- Videotape the class and then spend time toward the end critiquing yourselves and charting a course for improvement for the next rehearsal. This is an old actor’s trick that works very well.
- Host an impromptu competitive quiz “game show” with teams at the end of the class. This can make for a fun formative assessment activity kids will love.
- Do a recap of the class via student panel a la “sports commentators,” not to exceed 4 minutes.
Whatever you decide to end your class with, remember that this is the forward moving piece. It’s encapsulated by the all-important question “What are you going to do with this new knowledge?”
Classroom Engagement: The Beginning
If you’ve got your finale planned, it should be easier to figure out how we’ll start. Here are some ideas.
- Some teachers have utilized the power of the Internet to find striking videos that grab student attention from the start that also inform the final 4 minutes of the class.
- Share engaging stories at the beginning that can lead students to drawing connections as the lesson unfolds, culminating in questions to spark further thinking at the end.
- Juxtapose contrasting disciplines unexpectedly and draw connections later. For example, try dribbling a basketball at different heights at the start of the lesson to illustrate different tempos in music.
- Pose a cliffhanger or mystery that will be gradually solved as the lesson reveals itself. You could end the lesson like Sherlock Holmes, recalling bit by bit how the mystery was solved.
Like a good meal, your appetizers and desserts have to be great. Certainly, your higher-order thinking in the middle is the main course, but how would you have learners leave your class, inspired for further self-guided exploration? This is the stuff that makes learning, and teaching fun, in these minutes that matter.