Engagement is key

This year I’m part of the Missouri Teacher Academy, which meets once a month to share and discuss teaching practices. I love it because it brings together the best teachers from different schools and levels around St. Louis so we can all gain a new perspective on our teaching. Each month will focus on a different topic and it’ll be a nice refresher of best teaching practices.

Last month’s training was the state-wide kickoff when all the teachers from Missouri came together in Columbia and listened to John Antonetti speak. He gave an informative and highly engaging presentation, which was important because student engagement was the main focus. He gave us practical rules to follow for designing classroom activities that engage students in learning. He also led us through activities to demonstrate these principles and we even received a copy of his book 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong. The rules shown below are a quick reminder of what makes an activity engaging that we teachers sometimes forget when planning lessons.

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The most important tool Mr. Antonetti gave us was a handy chart he designed to visualize how to combine engagement with learning. He reminded us that not all activities have to be cognitively demanding; sometimes it’s important to just learn facts and information. There comes a point in learning, however, when students must cross the “rigor-divide” as Antonetti calls it. This is when students are both engaged and also doing work that demands higher-level thinking. It’s a rubric that combines Bloom’s Taxonomy with teaching strategies.

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I’m excited to use these new resources as I reflect on my teaching now. I wish I had more time with my colleagues to apply these strategies more, because teachers don’t get enough opportunity to think critically about improving our craft. I’m excited to read Antonetti’s book for even more strategies and I look forward to more professional learning this year as part of the 2015 Missouri Teacher Academy cohort!

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