Battling Boredom – 99 Strategies to Spark Student Engagement is written by Bryan Harris, the professional development director for Casa Grande (Arizona) Elementary School District, and published by Eye on Education/Routledge. The company’s website convincingly shares, “Our mission is to provide busy educators with practical information on professional development, educational leadership, school improvement, student assessment, data analysis, teaching skills, and other related topics.” After reading Harris’ 99 strategies, I am intrigued by what he has to say and what this company has to offer educators.
It is obvious that Mr. Harris has had direct connection with students and teachers and understands the dynamic of a classroom. The strategies that he offers are hands-on and engaging. Some are basic (begin lesson with a story that correlates to the learning), but applicable to less experienced teachers needing ideas to get started. Other ideas are unique and engaging and will benefit teachers at all experience levels. I have 12 years of teaching experience, and found myself making notes and placing post-it notes throughout the book, intrigued by an idea like “The 2×10 Method” proposed for reluctant learners. The teacher is asked to spend 2 minutes a day, for 10 days, getting to know the student on a more personal level. The idea being that building a trusting, caring relationship with the child will assist in involving the student in participatory learning.
Technique for Use
How do you avoid this book becoming a dusty addition to your often-overlooked PD collection? My suggestion for using the plethora of ideas offered is simply to choose a few at a time to implement now. Select five of the strategies and plan lessons that include each of these new ideas, making them your own. I’m making a hard copy of the five I’ve selected to begin with and I’ll reference these ideas as I create my plans. As I gain mastery over the first set, additional strategies can be introduced in future lessons.
The format of the book is conducive to quick reference: contents, strategies, suggested readings and resources. The majority of the book focuses on the ‘strategies’ with direct application in the classroom which are broken into specific categories: begin/end a lesson, independent/whole group/small group lessons, and two intriguing sections — strategies for student movement and strategies for working with reluctant learners. The resources section includes ready-to-use, printable materials that correlate with the featured strategies.
I would recommend Harris’ book to all teachers looking for ways to engage students. His 99 strategies are clever, simple to implement and in the hands of a good teacher will certainly help promote active learning.
Lorri Kingan is a Library Media Specialist for Green Local Schools in Green, Ohio. She teaches library media skills at Green Intermediate School which serves 1,000 fourth, fifth and sixth graders. She also oversees the library program at Green Primary School. Lorri previously taught Language Arts and Social Studies. In her free time, she enjoys being a wife, a mother to three teenage boys, an insatiable reader and an internet addict.