Creative Teaching Strategies for Your Toolbox

By Lambert, Misty D.; Velez, Jonathan J. | The Agricultural Education Magazine, May/June 2011 | Go to article overview

Creative Teaching Strategies for Your Toolbox


Lambert, Misty D., Velez, Jonathan J., The Agricultural Education Magazine


When it comes to creative teaching approaches, it seems that we are always looking for practical teaching activities to address the very real classroom issues that we face. Whether it is the student that talks too much, the students that don't talk at all, or simply figuring out ways to begin and end a lesson, as agricultural educators we are always looking for helpful hints. In this article we have sought to capture a few practical strategies to engage with students and increase student engagement.

1. What are some tips for getting a lesson started?

a. Chalk talk - This activity can occur at the chalk/whiteboard, but if you are like me, the board is covered in announcements and reminders. Use a large piece of roll paper and markers. Write a question. For example, "What do you want to know about beef cattle" or "What would you want to tell Congress if they asked why agriculture is important" or "So what?" Then, without talking, students can write answers or questions. They can also connect to someone else's comment simply by drawing a connecting line. The teacher can stand back and watch or write and respond as well. Long silences can be expected as students respond when they feel moved.(Adapted for the NSRF by Marilyn Wentworth; originally developed by Hilton Smith)

b. Popcorn - Popcorn is a quick and engaging way to start a lesson. Provide each student a sticky note as they enter the classroom. Once the class is ready to begin, ask the students to provide their thoughts on an issue, term, or concept related to the lesson. Have the students record their thoughts on their sticky note and when they are done recording, have them come up and place the sticky note on the board. Let the students know that, like popcorn, some of them will quickly pop with an idea and others may take more time. Once all the students have popped, you can then review student answers/comments or have a few volunteers physically categorize the responses on the board. This is an excellent way to solicit input and determine the classes thoughts on a given issue, term or concept.

c. Cranium - Modeled after the board game Cranium, students are asked to model, act, draw, or sing/hum/nursery rhyme. For example, if the class is getting ready to start a unit on leadership, ask the students to model/act/ draw or sing what leadership is to them. If you are afraid they will all choose the same medium, assign them. Keep a stack of cards (Draw it! Act it out! Model it! Sing it!) to make assigning random and easy. Modeling can be done with clay, Play-Doh or even pipe cleaners-Be creative! Cranium is also good for reviewing.

2. How can I get them to talk?

a. Think-Pair-Share - This cooperative learning strategy is a simple three-step process to encourage students to talk. First, ask the students to think about the question posed. Then, after allowing some think time, ask the students to pair up and share their thoughts with a partner. As a final step, students can share their responses with larger groups of students or the entire class.

b. Think - Pair - Square - A modification of Think-Pair-Share is the Think-Pair-Square. After the student thinks individually and converses with a partner, you can pair them up with another pair. This conversation between four students allows them to expand ideas or compare answers before sharing with the whole class, creating more conversation.

c. Challenge my thinking - After sharing a challenging idea, issue or concept, give the students one minute to think of both pros and cons for the issue. Then pair them up in groups of two and ask one member to share either a pro or a con. The listening member of the group is quiet while the other student shares. After the first student is done sharing, the listening member is then required to respond using the opposite perspective. This is an excellent way to encourage sharing, debate, and critical thinking regarding agricultural topics. …

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