Kate and I attended the Learning & the Brain Society’s conference, The Science of Smarter Minds: Teaching to Think, Create and Innovate for School and Careers in May 2014. John T. Almarode, PhD taught a session on ways to engage the adolescent brain. Principle #1 was Raise Student Expectations with Behavioral Engagement. He explained that because the brain’s primary goal is survival, using the unexpected is a great way to gain students’ attention. He described it as playing to the “What’s that? Yeah, I’ll play along,” nature of the adolescent brain.
Today was a perfect example of this. For the Do Now, I asked the students to get two post-it notes from my easel and draw a symbol that would represent any two of the themes written on the black paper posted in the room. When they were finished, they were supposed to place the post-its under the themes they had chosen.
At the beginning of my sixth period class, two boys entered and looked to the front board to see what they needed for the Do Now. One of them stopped cold and said, “Whoa! Black paper!” His friend immediately turned and asked, “What are we doing today?”
What they were going to be doing was getting the requirements for their mind maps on Lois Lowry’s development of a theme in The Giver, examining mind map models, and beginning their prewriting. Incorporating movement, choice, social interaction, creativity and novelty into a quick activity grabbed their attention and got them excited about tackling a difficult task. It also provided the students with a bank of examples as they completed their work.