PBL · student engagement

spark interest with a powerful launch

Kicking off a lesson in a way that engages students is a classroom necessity, in my opinion.

This Cult of Pedagogy post offers a very thoughtful look at those all-important Anticipatory Sets and how to get the most out of them.

When it comes to a PBL unit, the Anticipatory Set is more of a project launch, known as the Entry Event.  One of my favorite “view from the classroom” videos that shows a terrific example of how this might be done is this video from teachingchannel.org:

Even if you don’t teach older students, doesn’t their approach get you thinking? I love the humor of it and the reaction of their students gets me every time.

Last summer, some teachers I worked with in South Carolina got excited about using the below clip from Toy Story 3 to launch a beginning of the year project focused on involving the students in setting behavior expectations. I loved the idea and used it with my own students in the fall to kick off our discussions about what kind of classroom environment was important to us. It started the discussion with some laughter and helped emphasize that a talk about rules could also be fun.

If you go to YouTube to view the video, you’ll see some of the other videos I used with the class when we moved on to what we wanted our class rules/expectations to be. A clip from Kindergarten Cop was also a big hit.

For our current PBL unit, we are focusing heroes – the well-known ones who’ve impacted the world, as well as the everyday heroes who might live in our communities. As a launch for this project, I wanted to spark discussion about what makes a person a hero. I gathered up a bunch of biographies, autobiographies, and stories about heroes from our school and classroom libraries and spread them out on the tables in our classroom. Here are a few of the tables:

When the kids came into the room, they immediately wanted to know about the books and check them out. I ushered them over to our meeting space and made a big deal about them not going near the tables or touching the books. “Don’t even look at them!” I implored.

Once they were all seated on the rug with their backs to the tables, I had them get knee-to-knee with a partner. I asked them, “What is a hero?” and had them discuss it with their partner. After a couple of minutes, they got knee-to-knee with someone else and discussed the same question. We shared some thoughts with the whole group and then watched this video:

After a bit more discussion, I sent them out to the tables where the books were displayed. I told them that I’d like them to think about what kind of heroes they are most interested in. “If you come across a book that grabs your attention,” I said, “write it down. And if a book makes you think about something else you’d like to explore, write that down too!” Armed with sticky notes, they dug into the books and talked excitedly about them. Every 5 minutes or so, I had them rotate to the next table until they had visited them all.

The Anticipatory Set isn’t only important at the start of a unit of study. It can keep engagement high and reignite that excitement throughout. When we got to the part of the unit where I wanted to shift the discussion to local heroes we could recognize, I used this Kid President video. It was a great way to get them thinking about heroes on a more personal level. And who doesn’t love Kid President?

What do you use to engage students at the start of a PBL or unit of study?

 

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