Guest Post by Debbie Annett
HOW YOU CAN KEEP STUDENTS ENGAGED DURING YOUR CO-OP CLASS
Are you a parent teaching a homeschool co-op class? Do you sometimes wonder, “How am I going to keep these kids focused and interested in what is going on in my class?” (Especially if it is right before lunch, and all they can think about is how hungry they are!)
Well, I am a homeschool co-op teacher for Spanish grades three through high school, and believe me, I have asked myself that question many times. But, over the last 9 years of doing this wonderful job, I have found some things that work.
Make it So the Time Flies
Design your class lessons with a variety of activities in small chunks of time so it feels like the time flies. Changing from one activity to another keeps things fresh and interesting. Use 5-10 minute time chunks for elementary students and 5-15 minutes for middle and high school.
I vary things between listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities/games. This can work for other subjects too. For example, listening may involve instruction of a new concept, answering multiple choice questions, or in Spanish playing a game of Simon Says. Speaking might be anything from reading or telling stories aloud or debating a Social Studies issue. Reading could have students delving into math story problems and then working in pairs to solve them. And writing may involve anything from recording results of a science experiment to creating a fun skit.
Use Multi-Sensory Activities
Use multi-sensory activities to capture the attention of different learning styles. Some students learn better by moving around and doing things hands-on. Others learn better when they are reading and writing. And some students need to hear things to tune in.
In my classes, since there is always a variety of activities, I am able to connect with all the learning styles. You may ask, “What happens when an activity is not matched to a studentʼs learning style?” The answer is simple. Since the lesson is organized in chunks of time, the student will not get frustrated because you wonʼt be in that type of activity too long. Plus, the student benefits by being stretched to experience learning in different ways.
Examples of multi-sensory games/activities from my classes would be, Simon Says (kinesthetic for those who like to move, but also great for auditory and visual learners), writing and reading conversation dialogs in pairs (great for visual and auditory learners, but you can make it kinesthetic by having students act out them out too), and Swat the Flies (a game where students on teams look at pictures, hear the word said in Spanish, and race to swat the correct picture first).
Have all your materials organized and know what you are going to do each step of the way. When there is confusion at the helm, there will be confusion and distraction in the ranks.
I always have my materials ready and laid out so that when I transition from one activity to the next, it goes quickly and smoothly. And involve the students in collecting, passing out, and cleaning up.
Help Students See Purpose in What They are Doing
I think it is important for students to understand that what they do has purpose. I challenge them to think about why we are doing certain things, like, “Why do you suppose we read these dialogs and then write our own?” Get them to think about the value of what they are doing.
Also, connect to the bigger picture. Challenge them to think about how the class subject is beneficial to their overall development. It is not just about learning the actual subject, but developing their abilities to think analytically, communicate with people more skillfully, become good problem solvers, and so on.
When you design your lessons with a variety of multi-sensory activities in chunks of time in an organized manner, you ensure that your class will be an interesting and engaging learning experience. And by helping students see purpose in what they do helps them to value their education.
by Debbie Annett
Author of Spanish for You! – a curriculum for grades 3-8 developed in a homeschool co-op environment for use at home or in the classroom