Engaging Classrooms

- A way towards self-directed Learning

One of the most powerful ways to engage students is to let them take charge of their own learning.

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To enhance the student involvement and engagement levels, teachers must constantly evolve as a reflective practitioner identifying and meeting the needs of children on trajectories of low achievement promoting flexible learning arrangements focussed on holistic growth.

As John Mack, the president of the Los Angeles Urban League, succinctly pointed out, “school is just not cool” for too many of today’s youth. While educationists and policymakers insist that every child attends school, they cannot legislate the positive attitude, motivation and behaviours that are integral to students’ learning.Thus, it becomes all the more significant for the schools to equip the future of the millennials not only with knowledge but also skills that will keep the spirit and desire for lifelong learning ignited in them. Engaging Classroom Program proves to be a pedagogical intervention in integrating cocurricular and extra cocurricular activities in the mainstream curriculum. It is explored as one such possible solutions of the changing classroom transactions which redefines the school curriculum increasing middle schoolers student “engagement,” the adolescents’ desire and dedication to learning .The program aims in providing opportunities to different students with different interests and capabilities identifying their inherent skills, new social roles in a happy, respected and embracing fun filled learning environment.

Student-led initiatives like community outreach programs and metacognitive strategies like self-directed learning program are the endeavours that would enable the children to take onus of their own learning. These effectively planned activities would not only contribute towards pouring in to them the future based skills based on innovation and upgradation but also kindle in them the spirit for mastery of learning with full and thorough engagement.

What are the current challenges?

The student engagement outcomes including attendance, school attitudes, disciplinary issues, peer influence, low self-esteem, parental pressures participation in co-curricular activities and desired academic achievements (e.g., grades, standardized test scores) have been identified as the major challenges during the growing adolescent stage. As teachers, we need to completely understand that the transition during the adolescence needs to be managed in the most innovative, balanced and comprehensive way possible. All said and done the ultimate floor test that a teacher needs to take and also pass day in and day out is what we in the teaching jargon call “Student Engagement.” To enhance the student involvement and engagement levels, teachers must constantly evolve as a reflective practitioner identifying and meeting the needs of children on trajectories of low achievement promoting flexible learning arrangements focussed on holistic growth.

What makes Engaging Classroom Program a unique practice ?

Zero periods, regular teaching periods and substitution periods is the time when teachers and students need to come together in making teaching learning a fun filled process. Myriads of activities can be planned during this time around the central themes like Health and Well-being, Human Rights, Inclusivity, Leadership, Peer Mentoring and Sensitization for Sustainable Development Goals. A structured planner is designed keeping into account the inculcation of life skills, promotion of core skills, optimum utilization of newspaper, celebration of important festivals and days,community outreach programmes, drives and campaigns. The lessons for the engaging sessions are planned with the vision of inculcating Sustainable Development Goals to help these young visionaries sustain life and resources for the future. The themes on which the activities are planned, primarily focus on the need to collaborate to achieve the global goals.

Common “life-enriching” learning objectives focus on enhancing students’ holistic well-being and their knowledge and skill acquisition in areas such as adaptability, decision making, problem-solving, teamwork, intrapersonal development, interpersonal competence, practical competence, leadership, cognitive complexity, ethics, humanitarianism and civic virtues. The program activities involve the open-ended reflections of personal relevance that enhance the intellectual merit of the students. It provides students with the opportunities to collaborate where they learn to work in a team, share responsibilities, make substantial decisions and imbibe leadership skills moving from independence to interdependence.

Such programs ensure classroom standards which keeps the students occupied thereby achieving the desired learning outcomes. These kind of hands on learning activities turn out to be one of the best methods which absorb the students in task, meeting the needs of the diverse learners, their preferred learning styles leading to self-exploration and self-actualization.

Student-led initiatives like community outreach programs and metacognitive strategies like self-directed learning program are the endeavours that would enable the children to take onus of their own learning. These effectively planned activities would not only contribute towards pouring in to them the future based skills based on innovation and upgradation but also kindle in them the spirit for mastery of learning with full and thorough engagement.

Lesson Plan on the Theme: Spreading Happiness

Being happy is good but spreading happiness among others is even better. The world ahead awaits with innumerable challenges, thus the schools should work towards building positive attitudes and beliefs. To foster positive approach towards life in students, engaging classroom activities like Appreciation Envelope, Thank you Card and Joyful Jar can be organized for the students to infuse in them the value of appreciating, acknowledging and being grateful.

Target Group: Class VI

Activity: Joyful Jar

SDGs Covered

  • Goal 4 Quality Education
  • Goal 5 Gender Equality
  • Goal 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Learning Objectives

  • To foster positive approach towards life.
  • To know each other in a heterogenous group.
  • To enhance their creative skills.
  • To express the strengths and positive traits of oneself.

Pedagogical Tools Used: Experiential Learning, Brainstorming, Class Discussions

Time : 1 Hour

Material Required

A glass/plastic jar, decorative materials, passport size picture of self, colour/crayons, marker, pen, fevicol, brown colour, sheets

Planning and Organisation

  • Students are expected to carry the above mentioned materials.
  • The teacher would discuss the importance of happiness and brain storm with students about things in life , about their peers , teachers, parents or school that makes them happy.
  • Students will cut the brown sheets into small circles in the size of cookies.
  • They will colour their cookies using crayons or colour pens.
  • Each cookie will comprise of things that makes them happy.
  • Students will decorate the jar and paste their photographs outside it.
  • At the end, they are going to fill the jar with the cookies made by them.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to express themselves in a better way.
  • Recall the delightful moments of their life.
  • Students will be able to list few things that make them happy.
  • Learn to showcase their work creatively.
  • Share their work and feelings with the peers and the teachers.

Life Skills Learnt

  • Self-awareness/ Mindfulness
  • Effective Communication
  • Creative Thinking
  • Self-Directed/ Engaged Learning
  • Social Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills

Core Skills Learnt

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Creativity and Imagination
  • Student Leadership and Personal Development

Reflections

  • Define Happiness
  • Why is it important to be happy?
  • What is your perception on long term happiness?
How Engaging Classroom Program act as a differentiator?

The most essential aspect of engaging classroom program is to gaze how the students are able to utilize the activities optimally to enhance their classroom experiences and more effectively contribute to the society. It focuses on a broad synthesis of abilities that combine knowledge, skills and values that reflects how students can learn, enhance their knowledge and apply it in the real world.

The aspect of inclusivity and differentiated learning of this program makes learners with different socio-cultural background actively involved in the classroom activities.

Activities based on SDGs sensitize the learners towards the environment including sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity. The learners are thus, able to emerge as global citizens, equipped with the skills that would lead their way as a valuable contributor to the society and become the decision makers of the future.

Happy teachers = Happy classrooms

Engaging Classroom Programme turns out to be an innovative model of creating and maintaining a positive learning environment in changing classroom dynamics. Such activities planned by teachers helps in harnessing the talent, creativity, imagination and potential of the students; envisioning the need to draw out the energy of the learners in the best possible manner. The most essential aspect of effective classroom management strategies is to understand how the students will be able to build a learning continuum to enhance their lives and more effectively contribute to society. Teachers must implement such diverse techniques into their management system to create active and cooperative learning strategies allowing the students to explore and approach. Such engaging activities will cater to the need of changing the culture of social control and utilizing the time for the holistic development of the learners. They would help the learners to collaborate as a team but at the same time rise individually as groomed personalities. Each of these activities create a learning platform for the students to actively collaborate with their teachers to make learning fun, inculcate good human values and equip with the necessary tools to develop life skills and prepare them for life.

With these practices in place, teachers and students will enjoy a successfully operating classroom where mutual respect and learning take place daily.

After all, “ Happy teachers can only nurture Happy Classrooms.”

Activities based on SDGs sensitize the learners towards the environment including sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity. The learners are thus, able to emerge as global citizens, equipped with the skills that would lead their way as a valuable contributor to the society and become the decision makers of the future.

Dimple Puri is the School Head at DLF World School, Greater Noida. She is a British Council School Ambassador. She has also been conferred twice with Life Empowerment Award in the category of Teacher Leadership in Life skills and Value Education and Inclusive Education for children with special needs by Expressions India in collaboration with CBSE. She has also received the Rex Karamveer award for contribution in the field of social inclusion. She has attended various International and National platforms like PASCH Principals Meet 2017 held in Bangkok.