Sound and Vision for participation/ engagement
Formal writing skills are crucial for my learners. Without them, as A-level students, they would not be able to pass the essay based exams. However, a large part of my job is about removing the barriers to learning that some students arrive at college with. Some of these are hang-ups from school, problems at home, or issues such as dyslexia- all of which can led to underachievement which then further damages the learners self esteem and sense of worth. I want to build them up, to go out into the world confident in themselves and their own abilities. Part of the way in which I do this is by fostering a sense of engagement through the use of music and images. Those of you that know me will know I myself am very much driven by these, and I am probably much more likely to be inspired by music and images, than by text on its own. I think that my diverting some of the attention in lessons away from written- textual focused tasks and by utilising pedagogy linked to this, there are some real gains to be made here with students less secure in their academic abilities.
Music is powerful. It provides shared experiences and can unite a heterogenous group in a shared moment and response. I have for a long time used lesson intro music, which isn’t probably connected to the content of the lesson. As the students arrive I blast something uplifting and brilliant as they take their seats. This serves to mark time too, as they are trained to complete the starter activity by the time the music has finished and they know they are late if they arrive after the music has finished. This also gives my class, my students, my subject, something of an identity and a sense of collective belonging. Sociology is different from any other subject- and the music is part of what makes that happen. I love that I teach a diverse range of learners- from Humanities, Languages, Sciences and quite a few from subjects like BTEC PE and Public Services- however, in that moment, sharing the experience of the learning task and the music they are Sociologists. I think feeling belonging is important for encouraging positive study behaviours, and I think this might be one of the reasons my learners are so subject loyal- the work hard, hand in homework and go above and beyond for me at events like Open Evenings and even Teachmeets.
Of course you can use music in lots of other ways- to time activities, musical chairs, jukeboxes, and so on. To me a lesson without music wastes many excellent learning opportunities- I have a stock of favourites, and of course if you teach younger learners you might need to be carful about lyric content, I don’t think you can go far wrong with House of Pain, The Cure, Elvis Costello or the Beatles. Look at it this way- you are also broadening their musical horizons. I also think that by sharing music with the learners you are giving them a piece of yourself- and it contributes towards creating a positive bond between teacher and learner. I love it when my students email me links to music that they think I might like or a track that their band has written- and often they continue to do so long after they have gone to University.
Images are brilliant to use to engage and intrigue. I have used them as starters and plenary activities, in terms of linking them to previous learning. Images can also be a really incisive way into difficult topics, which can allow for learners of different level abilities to access a topic on their own terms- for example I have used this image to initiate a lesson on Feminism.
Students have linked it to their own experiences and opinions. This has the potential to draw in a whole class- however, I would recommend you have a look at ThingLink.com as you can make images interactive- which if you have a BYOD policy gives students the chance to explore some of the key ideas and self differentiate in terms of how they process the material on a task. Here is one I made for the same Feminism image:
It’s really easy and has a lot of potential across subject barriers- in terms of engagement it could be set as a homework task or a collaborative piece that all students add too over the course of a lesson.
Infographics are another great tool for utilising images. My students also enjoyed making infographics this year- especially successful as it linked the harder statistical analysis to images that made the content more accessible. They require little ICT skills and looked very professional. Try infogr.am or piktochart to try this, and I’m sure there are lots of other websites I have not yet found. The nice thing about doing a task like this is it simultaneously builds both skills and confidence, which is then reflected in a positive attitude to work.
This is my infographic of the week by Mia MacMeekin.
Her blog is anethicalisland.wordpress.com I would urge you to go and have a look at her work as it is very inspiring.
Sound and vision provide us with another way to engage learners that can be utilised across subject and age ranges. It is important to try new tactics for raising participation that despite not being traditional, can be effective and will help to reinforce positive study skills and learners sense of belonging. I’m sure there are lots of other ways you can you sound and vision, please do talk to me about this if you have any great ideas.