Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hooking Students For Elementary Teachers Can be Yeoman's Work

Have you ever been so ENGAGED in an activity you had no idea how much time went by? What about the time you were reading a book and could not put it down? These moments where time goes by and you are so involved in your activity is what elementary teachers try to accomplish every hour of every day for their students. Many of us have to do yeoman’s work as we teach a variety of subjects.

Coming up with a hook for a lesson can be challenging and changes each year, as the students in front of us are not the same people from the year before.  Here are some tips to creating engaging hooks for lessons.

1.     Think about your audience.
2.     What are their passions? Interests? Vices?
3.     Do they enjoy talking to friends or the solace of a few minutes to explore things quietly?

I used those 3 thoughts to kick off my math and science lessons yesterday. Students were going to plant parsley seeds for our school community garden, reviewing the concepts of what plants need. They LOVE to read and work in groups, as well as share information learned.

We headed to our STEM room and designed collaborative working groups at small tables. Using five vastly different picture books about gardens, I introduced the lesson. Students were responsible for reading their book in a small group and then share out a brief summary of the book, lessons learned, and connections to why we would read this book before planting seeds. I also told them I would be using a random student generator to choose students to share out and take questions from the class, so everyone had to be responsible and ready!

For the next 15 minutes students were reading, sharing thoughts and writing notes. Our discussion that followed was rich with conversation and the planting of parsley seeds had a whole new meaning after exploring literature in science.

The same three guiding thoughts helped me create the foundation of the lesson on US Customary units and conversions in math. I have curious learners who are trying to think globally. I asked what US Customary units of measurement were, and some students shared both US Customary and Metric units. I did not initially correct them but shared I heard some metric units. We googled US Customary units to decide on a finite list.

I showed them a map  of who uses US Customary units. Students were shocked as they had no idea how few people actually used these units of measurement. I asked them to think about whether or not they agreed that we even use US Customary units throughout the lesson.

Our culminating activity was for students to write me a paragraph sharing their thoughts on the measurement units used in the US. Do you agree or disagree that we use US Customary Units? Explain your thinking. What a great dinner table conversation! 

Many felt they agreed that we should use it because we always have and are used to it. Others were not so sure and felt using both was helpful, as we needed to be aware of both systems in case we travel or work with different countries.

Others shared that we should have one to unite as a globe. Asking students big real life questions in connection with our math lessons encourages a deeper level of thinking than just converting measurements or identifying what unit to use.

Digging deep and hooking learners will engage them in their own education process and make the classroom an exciting place to be!

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