Although much has been written about the Zeigarnik effect — the brain’s proven ability to remember beginnings and endings better than middle’s. English teacher, Brian Szatbnik’s speaks from observation and experience in his Edutopia article, “The 8 Minutes that Matter Most.” He says,
If we fail to engage students at the start, we may never get them back. If we don’t know the end result, we risk moving haphazardly from one activity to the next. Every moment in a lesson plan should tell.
“The eight minutes that matter most are the beginning and endings. If a lesson does not start off strong by activating prior knowledge, creating anticipation, or establishing goals, student interest wanes, and you have to do some heavy lifting to get them back. If it fails to check for understanding, you will never know if the lesson’s goal was attained.”
He offers 8 tips to make those memorable moments magical:
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Start With Good News
If you want to create a safe space for students to take risks, you won’t get there with a pry bar. Classrooms that celebrate success build the comfort necessary for students to ask critical questions, share ideas, and participate in honest and open discussions. Starting with celebrations is a short, easy way to get there.
Toss a football around the class before you teach the physics of a Peyton Manning spiral. Play a song that makes a classical allusion for your mythology unit. Measure the angles of a Picasso painting in math class. Integrating other disciplines teaches students that ideas and concepts do not stand alone but rather exist within a wider web of knowledge. Starting with another discipline can open their senses to deeper learning.
Write for 5
Kelly Gallagher says that students should write four times as much as a teacher can grade. Students need to write — a lot — if they are to improve. One way to achieve that is to start each day with an essential question that students must spend five minutes answering. If done day after day, it becomes ritualistic and builds stamina. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe have a diverse list of essential questions.
It’s no secret that kids love video games, as they reach for new levels and higher rankings. Teachers can play upon this need by having students chart their own progress toward mastery based on standards. Creating game levels such as beginner, heroic, legendary, and mythic may be just the right motivation to engage reluctant learners.
Robert Marzano classifies exit tickets into four different categories: formative assessment data, student self-analysis, instructional strategy feedback, and open communication. However they are used, they provide quick and comprehensive bits of data and feedback. Wiggins and McTighe also have a comprehensive list of checks for understanding.
Mimic Social Media
Replicate the digital world’s spirit of collaboration and connection in the physical classroom. Erin Klein has written about the positive ways to use of Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram in the classroom. In the final four minutes, you can challenge students to compose a tweet or find an image best capturing the learning that occurred.
Have students write one thing that they learned from someone else in class on a Post-it note and stick it to the chalkboard. At the start of the next day, read these notes aloud. This affirms that a classroom is a community of learners and validates participation because it does so much more than answer a question — it helps others understand more deeply.
“The 8 Minutes That Matter Most” by Brian Sztabnik in Edutopia, January 5, 2015.
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