Yesterday I was talking to a very experienced teacher who I know suffers from the same syndrome I do and most of the teachers out there do. The how-can-I-reach-teens syndrome.
We all develop strategies, sometimes war strategies, we think and re-think ways that we could better engage our teens. The roller coaster is always on and the list of our trials and errors abounds:
– using tech in class
– making them move
– using topics that are close to their hearts
– giving some free time if they “behave”
– using games
And the list goes on. Some activities seem to work better than others. And my guess is that generally what ticks our teens are not exactly those sophisticated types of lessons that we spent hours preparing. Sometimes they surprise us by enjoying a very simple task you propose. Have you every considered the main elements of these moments of engagement are made of?
My insight tells me that no matter what we do, what makes an activity engaging is not the degree of sophistication or the main topics that will reach our learners or even the many hours you took to prepare it. Just today I read an interesting article that gave me a hint of what might make a class dramatically outstanding in which you feel that sense of flow and you know the students are there with you in the same wavelength. As stated in Wikipedia, you and your students turn into
“mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
By unconsciously using the idea of “Tension and Release”, by creating a moment in which you reach a climax of your class with an activity that the students feel compelled to participate, to “solve the puzzle”, to be part of it. That’s why storytelling is so powerful. It is just one of the many shapes you can build upon the idea of “tension and release” to create engagement.
Let’s consider, for example, TV shows, series, Brazilian soap operas, films…What do they do to keep us there on the edge of our seats?! Tension and release! That moment before the disclosure where our heads spin, then the relief of seeing everything unfolding.
When was the last time you had this “tension and release” moment in your class? What made it special? What was your trick?
If we teachers can spot these aha “tension and release” moments in our classes, our how-can-I-reach-teens syndrome might be overcome.