Switching the engagement button on to drive the pillars through the lesson

On Engagement….

Engagement is something I feel can be more than just tangible, if planning, pupil mood, time of day and differentiation all hit the right spot at the right time!  These are some of the things I attempt to align with 8Y2, five times a fortnight in order to keep my mental health intact.

A question I frequently ask myself:

How do I get those most reluctant language learners to respond, contribute, engage and show a glimpse of passion or enjoyment when they are more accustomed to  distracting, disrupting and being negative, unwilling learners?

I have sought to build up my own resilience: to engage in all sorts of conversations, be it talking about pets; showing interest in dog photos and saying how cute kittens and puppies look whilst surreptitiously hooking them in with some language- based task which gets them to think about using German for real purposes and on topics that they can relate to.  Praising the tiny steps of progress that are made, working side-by-side with a vulnerable student before the behaviour overwhelms them and creates an insurmountable wall to further progress.  To never have my back turned too long on the 4 or 5 other characters in the group whose attention span never stretches more than 3 or 4 minutes.

So what is working?  A human approach, a willingness to compromise, a steadfast commitment to the carrot on the stick which generally ends with a frenzy of quizlet and screams at team members to choose the right option, fast!   And ‘oohs!’ and ‘aaagh!’s as the winning team is projected on the interactive whiteboard.

‘Miss, can you shuffle the teams? There is time for another game!’

Developing relationships with some of the most vulnerable and difficult students, consistently setting a standard and sticking with it and offering a variety of tasks which hope to satisfy both their needs and mine have been some of the ingredients I have developed and am still developing in order to work on bettering my understanding of and growing appreciation of what engagement can offer both teacher and learner.

Kathryn Ridgwell, MFL.

Engagement and Relationships

Engagement, in fact teaching as a whole, I feel, is hugely affected by relationships with students. I have tried many things with classes, such as using a current article, debate, peer-led lessons, discussions, a picture, a controversial statement etc. to engage my students. Sometimes, these go well; sometimes these strategies fall flat on their face. Sometimes I do not have enough time to have a well thought- out, well planned lesson and with one group the lesson goes surprisingly well whereas with another group they are not keen to discuss and the lesson ends in disaster. Whereas sometimes I will spend hours perfecting a lesson, thinking about creative ways for differentiation, feedback, engagement, making sure there is group and independent work etc. and they really are just not interested.  First of all, I thought maybe it’s just luck, the time of day, etc. as students can’t be that different.

What I think over time has become very clear is the importance of knowing your students and getting that rapport with them. Putting in that extra effort, making sure you say ‘hi’ and smile at them in the corridor and making them feel at ease. Having the one-to-one chats to find out what the students are interested in. What career they want to do. What they are worried about. How they like to be taught. What things do they think are important? I do not always incorporate these into the lessons but when I can, I do, using the information to motivate and push students, showing them you care and you want them to get the future that they want. When they realise you are human and cannot do everything for them but try – they really push themselves to put in the effort as well. Once these good relationships are made and you have a good rapport with the students, you can take them with you on your journey through a lesson – you ask them to discuss and they discuss. You don’t have that panic of well this discussion is supposed to be 10 minutes of lesson – and then trying to work out other ways of getting them to really understand concepts when they go quiet and refuse to participate.

Jen Seeley, Social Sciences.

Engagement in Computing

Leading on from Jen’s observations about the importance of relationships, trust must be gained with the student for them to recognise support is there in the background in its various guises.

For a student to be engaged in Computing, I want to be able to see a student trying to solve their own problems. It has surprised me each year how little students will “Google it!”. They will passively sit in front of the world’s biggest source of information and yet not consider to type a few key words. Instead they will sit with a hand up rather than have a nano second response.

So what of this?

The need to get things right first time needs to be broken down. Students in computing need to relax and make mistakes. To be a creator relies on asking questions to unique problems. Things don’t usually work first time but it is a step closer.

So how do students feel comfortable getting things wrong? This is the chemistry of the subject: the simultaneous equation of giving each student the support they need to progress. Too much and you’ve done it for them; too little and they’re stuck. The scaffolding for one student might be an example program; mine is a fruit machine sequence and theirs is a traffic light. The support may be teaching them to use key words to refine a search. The more skilled they become at finding information, the more this will lead to independence, resilience and success. So they need the support to become confident in recognising trustworthy sources to support their learning. Every time they read something, they need to challenge it and understand the purpose and relevance of this new learning to solve the problem. Engagement is taking part in finding the facts, practising the skills and finding a relevant solution.

Paula Harrison, Computing.


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