NYSUT board member Selena Durio, pictured at right with students in her North Babylon classroom.

Pictured: NYSUT board member Selena Durio with students in her North Babylon classroom.

Find your MAGIC

"Meaningful Activities to Generate Interesting Curriculum" guarantees to put the 'active' back in 'activities.'

Are you feeling like you’ve lost your magic?

If you feel like you are slogging through the teaching day, chances are, your students do, too. Learning is meant to be an active process, and to be effective, teachers must activate students’ brains. But figuring out where to start can be difficult.

Enter MAGIC – “Meaningful Activities to Generate Interesting Curriculum.” This course is guaranteed to put the ‘active’ back in ‘activities.’ “When you do these kinds of activities, it makes the learning memorable,” said Randi Azar, ELT instructor and member of the Lawrence Teachers Association. The course is based on the idea that the best learning happens when students’ brains are producing dopamine and introduces lots of engaging activities that will keep young minds activated and primed to transfer new facts into their long-term memory. The course also encourages teachers to design their own meaningful activities, and to rate their effectiveness using a scoring rubric called, appropriately, SCORE (Skills, Curriculum, Organization, Results, Evaluation). Here, Azar offers some suggestions for making your class more stimulating for students.

1 - Set it to music.

Find ways to incorporate music into your lessons for extra sticking power, Azar said. Think of those earworm songs that you can’t get out of your head! Wouldn’t it be nice if those lyrics were useful information? For younger children, teachers can find videos that set class materials to music, or they can create their own videos and encourage kids to sing along. For older students, teachers can ask them to create songs, raps or chants about material and then perform for the rest of the class. Too shy? Find songs that relate to the materials you are talking about – songs about people, places, or events you are covering – and play those during class. Be sure to share information about the musician or composer, too.

2 - Math is everywhere.

Anything that can be counted or measured can be used in a math lesson. Find ways to apply math to real life situations and you will be safely depositing that material into your students’ long-term memory banks. Bonus points for getting kids out of the (same old boring) classroom for these activities because new environments stimulate children’s seeking systems, Azar said. Seeking systems are the part of children’s brains that incline toward exploration and tackling new challenges.

3 - Begin with a brainteaser.

Starting class with a quick puzzle helps wake up student brains and prime them for processing. That is because confusing brains is one way to kick start them into action. Puzzles are also a terrific way to quiet students, give them something to focus on, and segue from one activity or unit to another. These puzzles can complement the subject area you are teaching or be completely random – the key is to stump young minds.

4 - Get up and move.

Incorporating movement into class accelerates children’s learning process. Students who move as they learn absorb information more quickly than students who sit still and passively observe, Azar said. When students get up and move, they also enjoy a burst of neurochemicals that boost mood and protect against anxiety and depression. Worried? Movement does not have to mean chaos. Start classes with short bursts of activity like jumping jacks or jogging in place. Toss a ball to students answering questions, using it to give them a turn to speak. Create learning stations so that children are encouraged to move around the classroom to learn. Incorporate stretch breaks in between classes or subjects.

ELT coursework is offered year-round and can be used for undergraduate, graduate and in-service credit as well as to fulfill Continuing Teacher and Leader Education requirements. For more information, go to elt.nysut.org.