Gold-star stickers for all of you who said the best way to keep students in line is to keep them engaged. We salute the fundamental, sound humanity in that approach (much more appealing than the cat-o'-nine-tails). But how to capture children's mercurial attention? You suggested project-based learning, group work, and interactive lessons instead of lectures. Of course, if those fail, you could follow the advice of one not-to-be-messed-with reader: "Talk louder than they do."
Other popular responses read like a prescription for the ideal classroom: rewards, positive feedback, a culture of respect, honest conversation, consistency, and a strong student-teacher rapport. And then there was the slightly mysterious suggestion made by an educator who may be reliving those heady Jefferson Airplane years: "Incentives -- I use white rabbits."
An Attention Getter's Menu
It sounds so simple: Just engage the kids, and they'll behave. As any educator can tell you, though, sustaining engagement is an elusive goal. Everyone who succeeds probably does it differently. To provide a few examples, we asked staff here at The George Lucas Educational Foundation which teachers and lessons so engaged them that they still remember them years later. Hands-on learning, and teachers with passion for their subjects, emerged as themes.
One colleague recalled a fourth-grade game called Rapid Calc, in which her teacher created a virtual baseball diamond in the classroom and students advanced from base to base by doing quick math. Another remembers studying the history of ancient civilizations by helping create a language, an architectural style, a piece of art, and a myth. For Editor in Chief James Daly, the key to holding his interest was humor. He looked forward daily to attending his high school art class with Mr. Miller, who had a flair for the funny. "If you didn't learn something, at least you got a laugh," Daly says. "Most times, you got both."
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