Educators are always looking for practical ideas for livening up a class and engaging learners. These ideas, however, do not always need to be complex or even unique. Even a new spin on familiar tools, or asking the right question can do the trick. Engaging Schools’ publication Activators: Classroom Strategies for Engaging Middle and High School Students by Nicole Frazier and Donna Mehle provides simple, yet effective approaches for drawing learners into the lesson.
Although designed for middle and high school students, the content of the book can also be useful for language educators in university or adult learning settings. While the activities themselves are not necessarily new, several aspects of the text integrate elements of peace education and promote healthy communication patterns.
First, the instructions are clear and pay attention to relationships in the class. Descriptions of active listening, suggestions for arranging seating, and reminders for students to follow Classroom Expectations or Guidelines for communication are helpful in keeping a positive learning environment.
Also, the simplicity of the exercises is a plus. Particularly for language learning settings, simple tasks can allow learners to focus on the purpose of the task rather than trying to understand instructions.
Finally, the debriefing questions following related to both content and process of the exercise draw learners more deeply into the experience. Often this debrief is missing in language learning classes because these questions pose a more challenging language task. However, the suggested questions in the text make it easy to prompt learners to reflect and express themselves beyond short answers.
For language and peace educators, this text is a helpful resource. Check out the sample chapter available online to see if it might be a good fit for your setting.