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February 1, 2023
Vol. 80
No. 5
Tell Us About

Tell Us About

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Readers describe an outside-of-the-box resource they used for a lesson that made student engagement skyrocket.

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Curriculum
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Credit: GoodStudio / Shutterstock

When the Right Lesson Just Sings

Every year the 8th graders I work with are super engaged when analyzing the lyrics to the song "WING$" by Macklemore. There's so much for the students to dissect in the text (and video!), and Macklemore's message is super relatable to middle schoolers. The kids spend a few days digging into the lyrics of the original song and then analyze a revised version in which the message significantly changes based on the omission of critical lines (TNT used "WING$" to promote the 2013 NBA All-Star Game). The students also read a few supplemental texts, including an editorial piece and personal statements by Macklemore. The lesson culminates with the students engaging in a Socratic Seminar discussion centered around this question: "Is Macklemore a sellout for taking part in the 2013 NBA All-Star Promo?" The level of thinking and engagement demonstrated by students during this lesson is unmatched. Facilitating this lesson brings me such joy every year and just shows that using the "right text" can make all the difference.
Jackie Wynkoop, secondary instructional coach, Bellefonte Area School District, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Prompts from Unusual Places

I tie the National Days and Months into my lessons. I use these resources to incorporate wonderings and digital media literacy lessons during my morning meetings and other times. For example, in November during the national PTA Healthy Lifestyles Month, we talked about what made a healthy life. Getting time for exercise was one thing mentioned, so my students and I analyzed the French mascots for the 2024 Olympics. We talked about what we noticed in these characters and what we were wondering. That led us to research more about the Paralympics, as one character has a running blade. It was a path I never thought we would go down. Students arrive curious each day to see what national day or month we will recognize next.
Allison Perani, PK teacher, The Hockaday School, Dallas, Texas

A Connection to History

For several years (beginning pre-pandemic) I have had grade 11 students participate in a project called Lest We Forget, where they use original documents and trace the journey of a soldier from our community who fought in the First World War. The project is engaging as it is, but the first time I did it, after several students researched soldiers who survived the war, I suggested we go to the cemetery in town where veterans of the world wars are laid to rest. We trudged through snow drifts in November and found the graves of the men they had studied. It brought the students to tears and led to deep reflection. Many of the students I teach come from families in need and have struggled with academics. This opportunity connected many of them to history and their community for the first time.
David Weisgerber, learning leader, Calgary Board of Education, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Letting Them Lead

To respond to a lack of student engagement in optional online live sessions in my high-school Foods and Design courses, I’ve introduced an opportunity for students to earn a leadership credit for designing and hosting collaborative online sessions for their peers. We spent the five or six sessions of the semester working as a group to identify qualities of leaders we admire, learning how to build smart goals, and brainstorming the aspects of online group experiences that a typical student might enjoy. We set norms for establishing safety and building community during the sessions as well as identified safe opportunities for students to share their work with others.
After laying the groundwork, we launched our live sessions at the beginning of November. We advertised the sessions to students outside our classes on our department-specific Instagram account (@cts_cbelearn) as well as our School News forum. Thus far, students have devised, advertised, and hosted sessions on designing logos, building a collaborative world of memory-inspired restaurants in Minecraft, and writing and recording an original song using Bandlab. Recently, students led a Kahoot activity that spontaneously led to a collaborative gaming experience. It’s been fun, and, as always, I think I might be learning as much as my students.
—Joshua Overland, CTS learning leader and teacher, Calgary Board of Education, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Digging Into the Trunk

My students have always craved tactile experiences. The art museum at a nearby university had “traveling trunks” that were truly treasure chests of artifacts related to artists we were studying at my arts-integrated school. We borrowed these so we could open them and explore the contents together. My students were able to touch and examine each item. One of my favorite trunks was based on an artist famous for the way they dressed, and featured period clothing items. It was so neat to watch the students touch those and really look at them with interest. It led to some of the richest discussions I’ve ever participated in with students. The inquiry process that the trunk inspired made engagement for subsequent learning tasks skyrocket. We were able to carry over this engagement in a truly thematic way into every subject during the unit!
—Amanda Koonlaba, learning specialist/teaching artist, Party in the Art Room, Tupelo, Mississippi

Voice and Choice

As a secondary science teacher, I wanted to ensure student engagement was at the core of each of my lessons. I began by providing students voice and choice in their wonderings rather than a prescribed lab experiment. Students choose how they wanted to present their claim, evidence, and reasoning to their peers. All hands-on experiences were based on NGSS and grade-level technology standards. It was a great way for students to take ownership in their learning.
—Maggie Mabery, coordinator of elementary education, ­Beverly Hills USD, Beverly Hills, California

Primary Sources

I’ve stopped using textbooks and have found it to be better for my students. Textbooks weren’t very engaging to my students. Instead I rely on primary sources. These are items I obtain from authentic sources or from places I’ve visited during my travels, including brochures, pamphlets, and site-based publications.
I saw great results: Student engagement during in-class reading increased. Their sense of feeling and being a scientist increased. And their ability to understand scientific and nonfiction texts when doing independent research increased.
—Nadene Klein, science teacher and educational consultant, Daniel C. Oakes High School, Castle Rock, Colorado

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