Saturday / April 13

20 Ways to Make Your Lessons Unforgettable

I was sitting in a chair at a salon when a young lady, who looked to be about 13 or 14, walked in inquiring about getting her hair braided prior to the beginning of the school year. In an effort to make conversation, I asked her if she was excited to return to school. Without missing a beat, she replied, “No, not really! I plan to sleep through my classes this year the same way I did last year!” I was at a loss as to how to respond! I reflected on how sad it is that many students are not looking forward to spending over 1,000 hours in school annually nor excited about the rich opportunities they have for new learning.

It doesn’t have to be this way! These students need an invitation to the engagement party!

According to research on the human brain and learning style theory, there are 20 ways to engage students. These ways not only increase achievement for everyone, regardless of grade level or content area, but they also decrease behavior problems and make teaching and learning so much fun.

The 20 strategies that should be in attendance at the engagement party are as follows:

  1. Brainstorming/Discussion – Students remember what they talk about as they respond to higher-order questions or tasks.
  2.  Drawing/Artwork – Drawing helps students encode new content for later recall.
  3.  Field Trips – We remember where we go in the world in which we live.
  4.  Games – When playing a game related to content, the stress level goes down and the retention rate soars.
  5. Graphic Organizers/Semantic Maps/Word Webs — Having students design a mind map or word web addresses both hemispheres of the brain.
  6. Humor – “He who laughs most, learns best!” —John Cleese, Comedian
  7. Manipulatives/Experiments/Labs/Models —There is a strong correlation between what the hands hold and what our minds comprehend.
  8. Metaphors/Analogies/Similes – Take a concept that is unfamiliar to students and connect it to one that is familiar and they will get it.
  9. Mnemonic Devices – Acronyms and acrostics enable students to remember lists of items in order.
  10. Movement – Anything the brain learns while the body is in motion is long remembered.
  11. Music/Rhythm/Rhyme/Rap – Rhymes and song lyrics learned even as children are remembered as adults.
  12. Project/Problem-Based Learning – When students are completing real-world projects or solving relevant problems, understanding is facilitated.
  13. Reciprocal Teaching/Cooperative Learning – We remember 90% of what we teach to someone else.
  14. Roleplays/Drama/Pantomimes/Charades —”Involve me, I understand.” — Chinese Proverb
  15. Storytelling ­– Stories have a beginning, middle, and end and help the brain make meaningful connections.
  16. Technology – Technology is a workplace competency which enables students to be college- or career-ready.
  17. Visualization/Guided Imagery – “Everything happens twice – once in the mind and once in reality.” —Stephen Covey
  18. Visuals – “Show me, I remember!” — Chinese Proverb
  19. Work Study/Apprenticeships – “One learns to do by doing.” —Aristotle
  20. Writing/Journals – The brain remembers what is written in longhand better than what is typed.

There you have it! Those are the brain-compatible strategies that should be in attendance at every teacher’s daily engagement party.

Here are two free downloadable lessons from my new books that you can use tomorrow:

Each lesson answers the following 5 pertinent questions:

  1. What do you want students to know and be able to do?

Backwards lesson design necessitates that teachers determine what they want students to know and be able to do before they begin to plan the lesson. Here is an analogy: How can a pilot file a flight plan before determining the destination? Each lesson begins at the end and works backwards.

  1. How will you know that students have mastered essential learning?

How are you going to know when students know? What traditional or authentic forms of assessment will be used during the lesson (formative) or at the culmination of the lesson (summative) to determine if students have learned what you need them to know?

  1. How will you gain and maintain students’ attention?

Consider need, novelty, meaning, or emotion.

If you do not have students’ attention when teaching, then you are teaching in vain. There are 4 ways to gain that attention. Students remember what they perceive the need to know. They also pay attention to things in their environment that are novel (new or different). If the content is meaningful or relevant, retention is facilitated. Emotion is the most powerful of the four! Just like anything that happens in the world that is emotional will be long remembered, any lesson that has an emotional connection for students will not soon be forgotten! The brain remembers moments, not days!

  1. How will you divide and teach the content to engage students’ brains?

The adult brain can hold an average of seven bits of information simultaneously which is why so many lists come in sevens (i.e. days of the week, notes on the scale, colors in the rainbow, continents, seas, Wonders of the Ancient Word, and even dwarves). To enable the brain to hold more, content needs to be chunked. This is the reason that telephone numbers, social security numbers, and credit card numbers are chunked.

Teachers would do well to determine how much content students can hold at a time in a lesson segment or chunk and which strategies will be included in each chunk to enable students to digest the information contained in the chunk.

  1. Which will you use to deliver content?

All 20 of the aforementioned brain-compatible strategies are listed at the bottom of the lesson plan template and are incorporated into every single plan. I invite several of these strategies to every engagement party I sponsor and you should as well! In fact, if you get to the end of the plan and cannot check off any of the strategies, your lesson is not brain-compatible and your engagement party is a bust! To teach that lesson anyway should be considered malpractice!

I will never forget the young lady in the hair salon. My wish is that this year her teachers will plan and deliver lessons that engage her brain and enable her to look forward to every school day. If you happen to be her teacher, the new books will help you to do exactly that!

Be certain that all of your students have standing invitations to your engagement party. They will all show up daily and class will be a blast!

Written by

Marcia Tate is an educator and best-selling author who has spent more than 25 years presenting engaging workshops to educators worldwide. Some of her Corwin books include 100 Brain-Friendly Lessons for Unforgettable Teaching and Learning for grades K-8 and 9-12, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage the Brain, Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Techniques to Detour Around the Danger Zones, and many more.

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