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Week 1A (Sept. 26 to Oct. 3)- Exploring Engagement Aloud

Activity Choice: What do I think I know about engagement? Select one or more of the following brief activities and complete the activity and your sharing by the following date: October 2

1.  Discuss ideas about student engagement: What do we presently believe constitutes "engagement?"  How do we know if students are, in fact, engaged? Can we identify it?  Measure it?  Define it? What are the elements that make up the concept of engagement and do they all need to be present for something to be called "engagement?" Use the comments feature (button above-posts below) to post your thinking on the concept of engagement and reply to at least one other person on their ideas/ thinking. don’t forget to ask people questions about their ideas:)

2.  Watch this video.  Feel free to laugh, but also record what you notice the students do. Join our google doc and list all the ways to notice “disengagement” that you see in the video.  Also add other ways you have noticed in your school life. Try to list evidence of true student engagement in the second column. And ways students fake engagement in the first column.

What signals do we see that the students are not "engaged?" Why do you think the teacher does not notice (or perhaps does not care) about these signals?

3. Watch this second video and compare it to the first.Watch this video and think about it in comparison to the video in the first activity:


Use the comments feature to discuss. What do you notice is the same or different in this video than the other classroomvideo from assignment one.  Do you think these students were engaged?  What signs of engagement were there? Could they have been "faking it"?  How would you know?


4.   Participate in a collaborative writing of the “definition” of engagement below (collaborative means people write stuff and other people edit and revise until we arrive somewhere that seems right).  Of course we could just cut and paste from Wikipedia but there would be no fun in that.



Task Discussion

  • Michele   Oct. 8, 2011, 1:45 a.m.

    Student engagement looks like the second video. I wish my classroom could work like the one in the second video, however I work with many at risk teenagers that are reluctant to participate. Many of them dont care and they really dont like school. Even my "good" students have trouble having a good attitude about school because it is not cool and they get picked on by other students. There is so much going on in my classroom that has nothing to do with the curriculum. I also teach 6 different classes which requires me to prepare that many different lessons. My largest class is Earth Science, a class of 32 students, who are mainly freshman. They are considered the most difficult bunch of kids in the entire school. They get in trouble a lot and many of the other teachers have no respect for them.

    It is really hard to get these students engaged in learning because I am new to the school and I had to spend the first few weeks developing relationships with most of them. I am still working on the relationships with a few of them that were suspended for over a week.

    I do notice many signs that my students are not engaged in learning because they write on desks, throw things, chase each other around the room, listen to their ipods, talk loudly when I am teaching, and the list goes on.

    I spend hours trying to prepare engaging activites and they alwyas seem to fall apart. I think I have a lot of learning to do.

    This is why I am glad to be in this class.

  • Jessica Powell   Oct. 3, 2011, 2:51 p.m.

    Student engagement: it means that students are actively and productively moving through the learning process. This does not necessarily mean to me that students are always getting everything right, but they are on the right track to learning the material. Learning is a process, which means that there needs to be an action to get them to the final product.

    In the first video, the teacher goes right into the lesson. While she explains what she is going to do, there is little "need" for the students to pay attention. The students are not given a prompt to truly start learning other than being expected to answer right away. However, it is clear from her teaching style that the students will not need to participate as long as they all stay quiet as the teacher will do the work for them. The teacher asks "okay" for clarification, but this almost seems like more of a habit as she does not get, and probably does not expect to get, a true response. When asking questions, she says "somebody" which diffuses the students' responsibility as she doesn't engage specific students. To make it worse, there are no consequences for not answering as the teacher then goes ahead with the lesson by giving the students the answer. Meanwhile, students doodle, listen to music, look away, yawn, and are most likely NOT truly learning French.

    This is not the case in the second video. This engaging math teacher breaks the "wall" that is place between her and her students by moving from the front of the class and walking into the aisles. I have found this strategy most effective with students. Going up and down aisles means that the students can't doodle due to fear or getting into trouble and are more likely to watch me 1) because I am moving or 2) in order to make sure that they are not caught doing anything they shouldn't be doing. In addition to good classroom management, this also shows a deeper connection to the students by being physically closer to them. The math students from the second video clearly show that they are engaged with the teacher and their fellow students. The students know that they will have to answer questions. This teacher is in control of the class, yet has given students the chance to take control of their own learning.

    The students are also physically engaged. In fact, they are required to gesture and be engaged. What's more, they're enjoying it! Students "teach" fellow students. This allows the teacher to measure student learning by asking student sto "give me gestures please." If they're not all engaged, students, who could have been "pretending," are called out, and then made to use gestures. Students are expected to model and teach. This shows that there are reinforcements for learning. Not to mention that there is a sense of ownership if the students know the answers, especially since there is a rapport between the teacher and students, shown by their respect toward her, and the fact that she actively knows and uses students' names. Students are engaged in their learning process and are clearly on the right track to learning what they need to know.

    (I apologize about my oversight of the due date.)

  • Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 1:11 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jessica Powell   Oct. 3, 2011, 2:51 p.m.

    Thanks, great summary. By the way, your post made me think that part of why students buy into this approach is that it is possible for them to achieve success and feel themselves to be part of a successful group. That is very affirming for all students but, in particular, for the weaker students who may not have a chance to shine or be noticed in other settings. 

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 5, 2011, 8:12 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 1:11 a.m.

    I agree with that, Tom.  I think being allowed to speak with a partner in a successful format allows reticent learners to feel success and confidence without being intimidated.

  • Deya Castilleja   Oct. 2, 2011, 1:42 p.m.

    I  can't agree more with all what have been posted here. I do agree a lot with the famous “silent period“. I used to be one of the students that would go home with a new concept in my head and make my own connections later on.

    I think this conversation has been really engaging and I think among the elements that contributed for a very engaging experience are:

    • the freedom we had to express ourselves in a safe environment...
    • the fact that the topic, obviously, is relevant to all of us.
    • the fact that to some degree, we all have previous knowledge, and it has been taken into account.
    • Maybe even the fact that managing the platform could represent a challenge was an engaging factor.

    I think when those elements are not present in our classroom, is hard to engage our students.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 5, 2011, 8:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Deya Castilleja   Oct. 2, 2011, 1:42 p.m.

    Yes, and also choice.  We have all had the choice to be here.  How does that play out in a classroom?

  • Rasika   Sept. 29, 2011, 10:17 a.m.

    Engagement to me means paying attention, understanding what is being said, making it meaningful and personal, - so asking questions, being able to answer questions to show understanding, enjoying it.

    I like te question about whether silence shows disengagement - it does not necessarily show disengagement, especially if he/ she is silent when the meaning is clear, or have understood the information but it may lead to disengagement eventually if a person is silent when he/ she does not understand and does not ask questions.

    In the video which shows engaged students, I cant imagine what it will sound like if all teachers are using it in all their lessons.

    I have not come across this technique (have seen similar ones) so will try it in some of my lessons.  Our lessons are 55 minutes and I plan to use this technique for maybe 15 minutes to get some vocab done at the start of new topics.

    I believe lessons should have some quiet time for reflections and also for students to ask questions, etc.

    Theres a new teacher at my school and she uses a similar technique where students sit in groups of four and they all have to learn some things quickly and she putsup these points on the board, it woks really well.  She says the points dont really mean much but the students are really motivated by them.  

  • Abdoulaye DIOUF   Sept. 28, 2011, 1:05 p.m.

    Dear All

    In the first video, it's quite clear that students are not interested in what the teacher is doing. Students are "engaged" in drawing, making-up....

    Questions that arise from this video are:

    Did the teacher prepare her lesson? 

    Did she plan activities for her students?

    Why didn't she re-adjust her lesson?

    The roll call is so icy that one can predict the boredom of the class. There is no warmer. It seems that the lesson is not prepared or planned. It seems she is simply reading, she is the one asking and answering. There are no planned activities for students. The class is too silent.

    The second video seems to be very lively. Students are encouraged to learn through cooperative learning. Here Watchers can feel that rules have already been set. It becomes natural when they have a task they do it in pair. 

    The techer is full of energy and masters what she is doing. All students are involved in classroom activities.

    However, a question should be asked, is noise a proof of engagement or is silence a proof of disengagement?

    Thank you

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 28, 2011, 11:48 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Abdoulaye DIOUF   Sept. 28, 2011, 1:05 p.m.

    I love this statement..."a question should be asked, is noise a proof of engagement or is silence a proof of disengagement?" 

    While I know there are some signals that on the whole we can trust (squeals of delight= engagement, falling asleep= disengagement), I think it is wise to step back and realize we can be mislead in both directions.

  • Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 1:06 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Abdoulaye DIOUF   Sept. 28, 2011, 1:05 p.m.

    Great question Abdoulaye. You're right, I think it is possible for completely silent learners to be doing wonderful things, but as  teacher/coach I need to receive feedback from the student to know what they are learning or not getting. For that reason, i would prefer high levels of noise (where students are interacting with teacher or partner), choral response, movement  and so on so that I can receive those indications that tell me what each child is getting. In our large classes of 35-40 we maximize the chances for student response by using these types of routines.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 5, 2011, 8:16 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 1:06 a.m.

    Tom, such a good point.  The feedback is for us as teachers.  Sometimes students might be learning cratefuls, but how are we to know unless there is a mechanism for feedback?  I often wonder how we can set up feedback mechanisms and still respect the student's need for autonomy and space in learning? Ideas?

  • Julie Berlin   Sept. 28, 2011, 12:05 p.m.

    Yes, Chris is a bit robust with his methods.  However, I have a very calm, serene, sweet teacher who uses his techniques beautifully in this calm manner.  It works for both type of personalities.  As I said in my earlier post, I am not a fan of some of his methods.  I am, however, enrolled in another WBT class and am seeing examples in all grade levels and to be honest, I much rather walk into those rooms to observe than some of the dry, boring ones I do observe...where kids are "faking" it.

  • Tracy Q   Sept. 28, 2011, 8:02 a.m.

    Engagement can mean different things for different students in my opinion.  Some students are fully engaged even if they are not talking in class as they are more intorverted.  As  shy student myself I often preferred to write out answers and think about them for a moment before being asked to talk in a group of people.  I think technology gives us wonderful opportunities to use different forms of student feedback in class and work with various forms of engagement.


    In the first video I found this a classic example of a teacher who just wanted to make it through that hour of class where the second video was a lot of work on the part of the teacher and I was exhausted watching it.  I wonder if I could keep up with the pace all day of the teacher in the second video with my personality.  I wonder how I could modify the assignments for student engagement with one another in my online setting?
    Thoughts for the future

  • Julie Berlin   Sept. 28, 2011, 12:22 a.m.

    Actually, Chris Biffle began his techniques in his COLLEGE courses.  Amazingly, they did not originate in the early elementary grades as one might suppose.

  • Ryna   Sept. 28, 2011, 2:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 28, 2011, 12:22 a.m.

    I watched a few videos of him teaching philosophy at college level. Although it seems very effective I cannot imagine my students responding in the same way, I also cannot imagine keeping that up day after day! I prefer a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 28, 2011, 8:38 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Ryna   Sept. 28, 2011, 2:57 a.m.

    Funny, Ryna, I often think the same thing when I watch the Biffle class videos.  Feels too frenetic for my style.  I have seen teachers incorporate the class call to get attention, and that seems to work well.  I think using TPR (total physical response) can be very effective in doses.  All day seems overwhelming. 

    It would have helped some of my college courses to have such activity, especially given college courses tend to run for an hour and then you are out ( and those professors can be so dry and boring).

    I like how TracyQ points out that all of us are different in terms of our needs for engagement.  I think this is a very important point that I hope we will examine together in this course.

  • Noah Koch   Sept. 27, 2011, 6:49 p.m.

    The first video it was very obvious how disengagement was shown, as a viewer I wasn't even engaged. There was no interaction between the student and the teacher, the students got bored and they got nothing out of the lecture. Even with a Lecture it shouldn't be like this. There should be still a little bit of back and forth, and for heavens sake, eye contact.

    The second video was phenomenal. Every step of the process, the teacher made the students teach it to each other, which has been shown to be the best form of learning. "Faking it" was not even possible, every thing was pounded into the students head. Everything was also taken in bits and peices (Psychology calls this chunking) and then repeated. The teacher was also very engaged with what she was doing, using hand signals, making eye contact, and varying the pitch in her voice. 

  • Tasha Martin   Sept. 27, 2011, 8:11 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Noah Koch   Sept. 27, 2011, 6:49 p.m.

    Noah, do you think they could fake it by doing the routine and then "Blah, blah, blahing" it through the share part?  I think it would be interesting to see the scores of classrooms that use this method.  Although I think it keeps the student engaged, from experience I know that there are students who will just do the routine.  I also agree with you that the teacher was very good.  Thank you for your response!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tasha Martin   Sept. 27, 2011, 8:11 p.m.

    I wonder whether because all are involved the probability of MORE students being engaged is the thing--even though I have no doubt a few would/would blah blah once the novelty of this method wore off.

  • Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 12:58 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:39 p.m.

    I think too we can make a case for the mere repetition--even that is one avenue for students learning to use Academic English, for example--and "turn and talk" activities. What I hear most of us saying in these conversations is that we understand that engagement for most students needs the component of practice and interaction. I've seen the method used very successfully in Middle and High schools. The key is tweaking things ever so slightly (or more) so that the novelty doesn't wear off--it is adjusted by the sensitive teacher who realizes one approach no longer works so now we try a new variation

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 5, 2011, 8:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 12:58 a.m.

    Hi Tom,

    I find that the turn and talk, or the pair-share, is probably the single most engaging method at the elementary level.  I suspect if the questioning and dialogue choices are kept interesting, students will never lose interest in the act of dialoguing.  Do you agree? I think something about being human means we like to share and talk.


  • Ryna   Sept. 27, 2011, 2:23 p.m.


    I found the second video extremely interesting. I have had limited teacher training and have only recently become interested in deepening my knowledge in the field.

    I teach Art & Design History, as well as Visual Communication, at college level. I always attempt to make my lessons more engaging by incorporating visuals and video, as well as a lot of discussion, group work and student presentations. Although a technique such as WBT would not go over well with the cooler than cool college students, it did encourage me to consider incorporating a few of the strategies.

    I especially like the idea of micro teaching. I know that I can sometimes drone on for ages. Breaking my speaking time into bite size pieces might be very helpful.

    I also like the ‘Class’ ‘Yes’. It will remain to be seen if the students will respond to this, but I think it can be very effective in quickly getting everybody’s attention.

    I also found that the students speaking at the same time can be a bit counterproductive. One of the overall outcomes of most of my classes is to develop students’ ability to think critically and conceptualise. Simply repeating everything that I say will not achieve this. Therefore I agree with the comment that a distinction should be made between ‘repeat’ and ‘discuss’.

    One of the things that I continuously reinforce is that ‘marks are stupid, knowledge is key’.  I try to teach them that although a great mark is wonderful and rewarding, it is not THE reward. THE reward is knowledge gained and what is can mean for them.

  • Tasha Martin   Sept. 27, 2011, 8:13 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ryna   Sept. 27, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

    I love your remark "marks are stupid, knowledge is key’.  I try to teach them that although a great mark is wonderful and rewarding, it is not THE reward. THE reward is knowledge gained and what is can mean for them."  I completely agree with this!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 10:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ryna   Sept. 27, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

    I wonder if Grant or Julie remember what Jensen taught at his whole brain seminar on getting people to participate in crazy things.  I remember he taught this, and I have retianed a great deal from that week in San Diego, but I do not remember what he said about how only that he succeeded in getting a group of conservative businessman to do cartwheels... Julie?  Grant?

  • Ryna   Sept. 28, 2011, 3:05 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 10:21 p.m.

    I do think my students would enjoy participating in 'crazy learning activities', but only as a novelty. It would get old pretty soon. And I know that I would not be able to keep up the enthusiasm for it either.  Humour is a very important part of engagement, but I am not such a big fan of 'silly'. Possibly because I'm not very good at it!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 1, 2011, 12:19 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Ryna   Sept. 28, 2011, 3:05 a.m.


    I think that I, too, am not much of an "actress".  I can be silly in class, but it has to come from a genuine place for it to work for me.  Is that what you mean?  I think it is important that instructors stretch themselves, but also important to be themselves. 



  • Tom   Oct. 4, 2011, 12:51 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 10:21 p.m.

    I'll hop in the conversation as I review posts that I have missed during the past few days (I'm back now!) I will say that I was completely inspired by Jensen's energy level and his ability to keep things fresh and unexpected. One key that I have borrowed from him is making sure that repetitions always include some element of novelty--the unexpected. When, like that French teacher who predictably follows her deading program, teachers fail to make adjustments and changes and fail to incorporate surprise and novelty, things can easy turn boring. Jensen points repeatedly to choosing practices that leverage the innate abilities of the brain. If a brain seeks patterns, then a variation from a pattern will also cause our neurons to spark a bit and pay attention. Regarding humor and crazy things, yes, there was some of that, but I saw it as an aid to help students get rid of preconceived notions ("no, I can't do this) and using some unexpected venue (the crazy thing) people were released a bit from their own self-imposed limitations. Well-placed humor (but only good-natured humor) also seems to have that effect.

  • Mireille   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:43 a.m.

    Re First Video

    I would think this video unbelieveable, how could there be teachers like that.    My sister said she knew a few in her school.   Oh my gawd.   Those poor kids.   

    I'm not sure what the rest of the video looked like.  I could barely listen to the first couple of seconds.   I was not engaged.

    Toronto, Canada

  • Mireille   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:40 a.m.

    Re The Second Video.

    This teacher had them engaged and it some ways it was cute.  What I felt uncomfortable with is that she was giving what I thought were commands at the snap of fingers that told them to speak, recite and get excited.   It felt like a cult like atmosphere.  This was a six minute video and I didn't see the entire class so my opinion is based on the video not outside it. 

    There was also one child in the front row that didn't have anyone to share is new found knowledge with.  I would have like for the teacher to create an environment where he felt included.   Again perhaps this child knew to share it anyway he could even if it was with himself.  I don't know what the instructions were. 

    Again it's important to know the "behind-the-scenes"  when forming opinions and of course opinions are not facts merely observations based on personal experiences.

    However if the video was to show the comparison between the first and the second video in terms of engagement then the second video is far more engaging. 

    Toronto, Ontario

  • Mireille   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:26 a.m.

    Hello everyone

    I can echo everything you all have said.   As I said before my sister is a teacher at a highschool in Montreal Quebec and tje stories she tells me.  As your students show their disengagement in the school system, their behavior crosses over to my environment and similiar behaviors are noticed.

    What I liked about these answers is that what is noticed can be changed by asking what is the opposite of the negatives and how can students collaborate in their own learning through conversation and collaboration.

    I believe Jules mentioned a number of people in her profession that inspired and engaged her.   I would like to include these names in the wiki that we are developing

    Toronto, Canada

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:40 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Mireille   Sept. 27, 2011, 9:26 a.m.

    Yes!  let's add those names/books into our wiki once it is going.

  • AnnetteV   Sept. 27, 2011, 1:41 a.m.

    What is student engagement to me?  To me student engagement means that students are actively interested (engaged) in what they are learning because it is relevant to them.  Where possible I give students the choice of what topic/theme they will learn by having a class vote on a selection of possible units each term.  Of course, to me, as an ESOL teacher,  it doesn't really matter what the topic is - my concern is  teaching the students the English language. The topic is simply the umbrella which underpins the vocabulary, grammar, genre, assignment they will complete.   This way the students have a sense of ownership of their own learning.

    When undertaking the tasks and activities of each topic the students are told how and why each task will help them with their learning of English (metacognition).  Hopefully they will then be engaged in their own learning process as they can see the reason in doing it.

    Student engagement is enhanced when the students are doing activities which are interesting to them.  Writing an essay becomes much more engaging to some when they can create it using a laptop.  A poster more fun using Glogster - visual techniques of colour, font etc become alive and fun when it is done with a click of a button and the concept is quickly and easily grasped (and edited when needed).  It is not the use of ICT for the sake of it but using it to make it relevant for the students.


  • Tasha Martin   Sept. 26, 2011, 9:50 p.m.

    Activity 2 Response (I could not edit the google doc.)

    In this column list strategies you see students ( in video or in your experience) using to “pretend” they are engaged when they are NOT engaged.

    *Headphones- I have seen this many times in classes I would take in college and sometimes observing other classes in schools.  The student would watch the teacher and nod or use facial expressions to make the teacher believe that they are otherwise paying attention.

    *Doodling- Students use this excuse to pretend to take notes. 


    In this column list evidence of true engagement visible in student behavior (from your teaching and life experience).

    I believe evidence of engagement is not only in verbal responses or questions from the student, but also their body language.  If they are sitting upright and leaning forward they are engaged.  If they are slouching or bouncing their legs they are disengaged and are probably not learning the material that you are teaching. 



    In this column list things teachers can notice/look for to determine if students are disengaged.




    *Head or facial gestures are not appropriate to the lesson

    *Talking with others/Looking at others




  • Rasika   Sept. 29, 2011, 10:24 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tasha Martin   Sept. 26, 2011, 9:50 p.m.

    Hi Tasha

    I too couldnt edit the google doc.  I agree with your list of signs of disengagement except the doodling one.  I think kinesthetic learners doodle if their movement is restricted and I have a student who can remember what happened in class by looking at the doodles he makes on the notes.

    Please watch:


  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 30, 2011, 1:55 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Rasika   Sept. 29, 2011, 10:24 a.m.


    I was one of those doodlers!  If I doodled in certain classes, I retained much more than if I took notes.  It worked for me in classes like education, psychology, art history,and religion.  It did not work for me in science or math classes.  I had one art history professor lecture me on my lack of attention and then after the midterm, apologize when she realized how much I had learned.

  • Tasha Martin   Sept. 26, 2011, 3:10 p.m.

    Unfortunately, the school systems I have been in have done no trainings on engagement (nor have I been able to attend as I have not seen any within our state) and I have not had a chance to read the books that were suggested below.  However, these books are now on my list to read. 

    We did have a short presentation during a staff meeting by our principle where we discussed engagement.  From this we believe that engagement constitutes a captivation of students' attention in and out of the classroom.  Students that have successful engagement in class will continue to be engaged outside of the classroom in discussion, assessments, etc.  I believe we can identify engagement by paying attention to the students physical characteristics and how they comeplete their assessments.  Because the idea or concept of engagement is so broad, I believe that defining it is a task in itself.  I also believe that each classroom just like each student is diverse and unique to itself. 

    Finally, engagement in my beliefs is a necessary component of learning in the classroom.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 12:40 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tasha Martin   Sept. 26, 2011, 3:10 p.m.

    Hi Tasha,

    May I move your definition up (or would you like to by hitting edit and adding it after it says ENGAGEMENT IS...)  into our editable area where we are putting together a definition as a group?  Then people can add and edit from your idea...



  • Julie Berlin   Sept. 26, 2011, 12:09 p.m.

    Well, I believe you mean Jensen and not Jenkins (although our district does L to J with Dr. Lee Jenkins which is an accountability/assessment strategy).  Anyway, Eric (like the Kagans and Rich Allen) uses a lot of music purposefully and monitors the "states" of students.  I highly recommend his book Tools for Engagement. Really any of his books are great reads.  I also highly recommend going to one of his workshops.  The time flies because you are so engaged in activities that you hardly feel as if you are learning, but guaranteed, you are.

    As far as WBT, I actually do think it is more management vs learning.  However, it is my staunch opinion that once you have your management strategies in place (be it WBT or other techniques), students are in a better state of mind to actually learn (which is where a well thought out, engaging lesson plan can be implemented.)

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 12:29 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 26, 2011, 12:09 p.m.

    Yes, Eric is the one, thanks, Julie.

    I, too, think often the management is one of those major stepping stones toward (or against engagement).  Management that is too loose with certain classes leads to lack of engagement by virtue of lack of structure.  Management that is too tight can sometimes lead to lack of engagement due to fear of mistakes. That has been my observation.

  • Julie Berlin   Sept. 23, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

    What do I think I know about engagement?  I have been extremely fortunate to attend numerous workshops and trainings by leaders in engagment techniques such as Eric Jensen, Spencer and Laura Kagan, Rich Allen, Marcia Tate, and Chris Biffle (to name just a few).  I consider myself a student of engagement techniques and strategies and provide professional development workshops for the teachers in our district.  I truly believe that if teachers immerse themselves in becoming aware of engagement strategies and purposefully including them into lessons students are highly likely to be engaged.  Teachers must have these strategies in their "toolboxes" and be ready to use them at a moment's notice.  I know that I have several strategies I use on a regular basis (music, visuals, humor, cooperative learning) that engage students.  I share simple techniques with the new teachers I work with and have seen great success. 

    Students who are engaged have a different body language than those students who are not engaged.  Sometimes the body language is crystal clear (leaning forward in a chair vs slouching).  Sometimes it's a little less noticeable (movement of eyes and other facial expressions).  It's hard to explain, but it's been my experience that there is a positive physical "buzz" in the room when students are truly engaged.  Smiling and enjoying activities also lets me know students are engaged.  Using Exit Tickets gives a teacher a quick summary of engagement by what is written in response to questions posed on the Exit Tickets.  And, of course, when students lose track of time, groan when an activity has to come to an end, or continue talking about it during transitions, playground time, on their way out etc., their brains are on fire and they have been engaged.

    With regard to the last video, our district is embracing the techniques created by Chris Biffle of Whole Brain Teaching.  I have seen many teachers use it effectively.  I have some reservations about certain aspects as he has described, but have found that I am able to adjust them based on my knowledge and experience with other engagement techniques.

  • Tom   Sept. 23, 2011, 5:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 23, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

    Hi Julie,

    I can only second so many of your remarks. Ihave also had the rewarding experience of attending Eric Jensen's trainings--talk about engagement! I would highly recommend his books to any teacher interested in engagement strategy.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 24, 2011, 12:01 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 23, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

    Interesting, Julie.  What are your reservations about Biffle's techniques?  For me, I LOVE the active pair-share.  I think the high energy can become overwhelming and lose its novelty if it is the method for every lesson.  I am wondering if you have found that to be true.

    Loved Jenkins whole brain seminar years (actually decades ago) in San Diego.  He is a great teacher--I can STILL juggle!



  • Julie Berlin   Sept. 24, 2011, 5:15 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 24, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

    Well, philosophically, I don't like his fifth rule (Keep your dear teacher happy).  I understand why he has it.  However, I don't think it's the responsibility of the students to make the teacher happy.  I think it perpetuates that "I'm the teacher" and you are "just the students" power trip.  I prefer to have a community of mutual respect.  My students know I am in charge, but they don't feel as if I am the sole possesser of "power".

    I also think that his "Teach, Okay" should really be renamed to either "Discuss, Okay" or "Repeat, Okay" because I don't feel the students are truly teaching each other (especially if both partners are speaking at the same time).  Kagan Cooperative Learning uses partner teaching techniques, but someone always knows who goes first and the students have equal time/participation.  Again, I would adjust Biffle's "Teach, Okay" to include Kagan's techniques.

    Similarly, I am not a fan of his "Mirrors."  It is nearly impossible for students to be listening to what the teacher is saying (presumably learning NEW content) while trying to "guess" and "mirror" the gestures of the teacher simultaneously.   And, since everyone is making gestures, I found it particularily distracting to see all that movement in my peripheral vision.   Again, I WHOLEHEATEDLY believe in using movement and gestures to help cement learning, I just don't think it should be done simultaneously.  Instead, intentionally TEACH the movements and gestures and then have the students repeat.  Chunking it is also recommended.

    So, it's not that I don't like his ideas, rather, I think there are ways to tweak them to make them better.  As a mentor, I have been in a plethora of classrooms where the techniques work seemlessly and the students are actively engaged.  I am happy those teachers are finding success.  As those teachers mature and grow in their careers, I believe that they will make adjustments that best support the learning of their students.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 26, 2011, 12:27 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 24, 2011, 5:15 p.m.

    I heard a teacher once say that Biffles techniques are less about learning and more about classroom management.  Do you agree with that idea?

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 26, 2011, 12:29 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 24, 2011, 5:15 p.m.

    Julie and Tom,

    What do you remember most about Jensen's Whole-Brain Learning methods?  What do you think are some of his most effective ideas for student engagement?  student retention?  student learning? (And do you think all of these are the same thing?)



  • Grant   Sept. 26, 2011, 10:29 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 23, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

    I strongly agree with everything you have said.  I have not had the opportunity to read the book.  I certainly agree with the "buzz" you are talking about.  When I have had 2 sections of the same class and when the kids come in from the second section come in to class excited about what we are going to learn that day is something that I really enjoy.


    I also like to get the feeback from the students in very similar way.  Some kids really enjoy and like to do the active body gestures and the "sing and dance" approach, while I have others who would just like to get to the information and move forward.  I have tried to balance between the two because I know there are kids who do not seem to like the Whole Braing Teaching.


    I have noticed as the kids get older in school it is much more difficult to get them to participate in these types of lessons.  My junior high kids are very excited and more tune to trying different things while the high school kids I have had are more interested in being "cool" and not partaking in some of the things I would like them to do.  I still got them to do it, but they seemed more hesitant to be crazy!  The thing that drives me nuts is that a majority of the time they would tell me that the song helped them remember something or the crazy move we did reminded them what to do at a certain step of a problem. 

  • Tasha Martin   Sept. 26, 2011, 9:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 23, 2011, 3:18 p.m.


    I have taken note of the names that you mention within your text.  We have about 20 full-time and part-time faulty on staff.  Although I am sure that all of them are highly recommendable, which book/author would you recommend for a book study? Presentation that would be facilitated online using webex as the format for meeting?

    Thank you in advance for your suggestions!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 27, 2011, 12:42 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tasha Martin   Sept. 26, 2011, 9:39 p.m.

    Maybe once Mireille gets the wiki up for us, we could put in a list of reading materials and experts/conferences on the subject of engagement.

  • AnnetteV   Sept. 27, 2011, 2:03 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Grant   Sept. 26, 2011, 10:29 a.m.

    I agree that older students don't like to expose themselves to any possibility of doing something that involves singing, brain-gym etc - they don't want to look like a nerd. 

    I have never witnessed the Biffles technique in the second video and my first impressions were that this would be great for kinesthetic leaners - however - at the high level of activity that was demonstrated I can't see it happening in my classes.  I could see, however, that a toned down version eg using signs a little more covertly and the Pair-Teaching could be valuable (especially that the students (ESOL) have to talk in English to do it).

    I use choral reading - so the students can speak English out loud and not be individually noticed.  The students usually resist at first but when I insist and explain why they do it they do it.

  • Deya Castilleja   Oct. 2, 2011, 1:53 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Julie Berlin   Sept. 23, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

    Hi Julie,

    I really like the “buzz“ term, and I totally agree, you know is happening, although is hard to describe.

    As a preschool teacher It makes my day when kids don't want to leave and sometimes even cry when parents show up to pick them up! Very often I ask questions like “what are we doing?“ and I try to pay attention to the ones that are not answering and get close to provide that extra help that might make the difference between engaging into an activity or get bored and disruptive. 

    I agree also about the “toolbox“, that plus getting to know our students, being creative and taking risks, little by little we can become more engaging teachers.

    I would love to attend your workshops, do you have any online?