California Educator

August/September 2023

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how to start strong Engage students the moment they enter your classroom By Sarah Gonser T H E F I R S T F E W moments of class, like the opening lines of a novel, are critical. For teachers, they 're the starting gate for the lesson that follows and "the key to enlivening — or extinguishing — student interest and learning," writes Curtis Chandler for MiddleWeb. Making sure that your warm-up activity is both substantive and highly engaging, or even downright fun, draws students into the classroom and the lesson. It takes practice and some trial and error, but veteran teachers say it's worth the effort. " The battle against student disengagement and disinterest is winnable when we work to infuse the opening minutes with experiences designed to pique student interest, acti- vate prior knowledge, have some fun and prepare them for the day 's learning," writes Chandler, a professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho and former middle school teacher. Class warm-up strategies aren't new, but they can get less attention than they should, especially when the focus for teachers is on moving quickly into the content. Middle school math teacher Jay Wamsted says he began his 8th grade math class the same way for more than a decade: with a warm-up problem on the board and the expectation that students immediately get to work solving it. Except, he writes, that's not how things went most days. "What really happened was that out of 30 students, maybe five would diligently engage in the problem. The rest would delay with tactics ranging from pencil sharpening to grab- bing a few extra winks," Wamsted writes. He says he'd have two choices: "Go over the warm-up problem for less than 20 percent of the class — typically the 20 percent that didn't need it in the first place — or waste time for the on-task stu- dents by giving less proactive students a few extra minutes." How can you do better? Here are seven warm-up activi- ties, from a variety of sources, designed to build connection, activate prior knowledge, and be engaging enough to pull kids into the content. Link to what they know Taking a few moments at the beginning of class to help kids connect what they already know to new content — a strategy known as previewing — helps create more durable learning, "especially for students with limited background knowledge," Chandler writes. Bait and switch: Begin by briefly discussing common misconceptions students may have about the topic of the day 's lesson, Chandler writes. For a lesson about oceans, for example, everyday misconceptions might include statements like "all oceans have the same salinity," or "nothing lives in anoxic mud." Have students take a quick true/false quiz focused on statements that "all seem plausible but are all false," he suggests, before revealing to the class that all the quiz statements are in fact false — and that they 're about to learn why throughout the lesson. Informational hooks: Designed to get kids interested in the lesson ahead, informational hooks can be any type of short, targeted media: videos, clips from a podcast, news headlines, photos — even a great anecdote. To vet relevant hooks, Chandler suggests considering the following: • What concepts or skills will the hook highlight? • What is "truly unique, novel or useful" about it? • Will the hook grab their attention — but not distract from the lesson? Productive failure: Inspired by the research of learning scientist Manu Kapur, consider designing a short prob- lem-solving activity, perhaps focused on crucial target concepts. The problem should be just beyond students' reach and designed to activate prior knowledge, motivate 28 Feature

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