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Student Engagement Through Camouflage Learning

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I call it “Camouflage Learning”…..

Students are not to be underestimated.  They’re constantly aware of their surroundings and always “watching out” for the threat of being taught.  They’ve been trained, over the years, to be looking over their shoulders in the hopes of protecting themselves from objectives, standards, assessments, and data-driven approaches.  As a result, students are very perceptive and they know when you’re trying to teach them something….But if you’re careful, sometimes they’ll learn without realizing it! It’s deceptive, sneaky, under-handed, and yet, calculated.  It’s camouflage learning.

Sometimes I try to trick my students into learning.  Without their prior approval, I’ll deliver content via strategies used to camouflage content within the lesson…It can take place, usually, without them knowing and there are a great number of ways to accomplish this feat.  I’ll share a couple of student engagement aka camouflage learning strategies with you now.

Camouflage Learning Strategy #1:  “Guess the Gab”

Have you ever had to “get through material?”  I think at some point, all teachers have felt the necessity (or maybe urgency!) to cover material with their students (either through direct instruction or a guided discussion) and have searched for a “hook” for their students. 

Here’s one to try:  Instruct your students to take out a small piece of scratch paper for today’s activity.  Let them know that you have a certain amount of material that you’d like to cover today and students will be able to guess how long you’re going to “gab.”  Instruct them to write their guess on the scratch piece (along with their initials) and fold the piece of paper.  They’ll need to know that they can directly impact your presentation by asking questions (sometimes with the purpose of extending the time you’re teaching!) and that YOU will be keeping the official time.  Collect the folded papers containing the guesses and give them the start time…and then it begins.  Periodically, during the presentation, ask your students “how many of you are still in the game?”  They’ll be engaged, stay engaged, and will listen to the presentation without realizing that they’re learning….Yes, it’s a camouflage approach.  I always like to check in with the students during the activity and ask “Who’d like to know more about this topic?!”  Those with their hands up are obviously still in the hunt.  At the conclusion of your presentation call “time!” and announce the total number of minutes of the lesson.  Yes, you’ll get some groans from students who missed the mark but you’ll have an engaged class that learned along the way.  For those who had guessed correctly (there’s usually 1 or 2) I’ll offer a piece of candy, an “excused” assignment, or some other reward.

Camouflage Learning Strategy #2:  “No E Writing”

This is going to sound crazy.  Occasionally I’ll have my students complete an in-class writing assignment with restrictions against letters that they can use.  My favorite is no “E.”  Working in small groups, they’ll write short stories, descriptions, and summaries of class material while having alphabetical restrictions in place.  It forces them to think creatively and cooperatively and turns a more simple classroom lesson into a quest. They’re focused on the challenge while also completing the learning task.  Once in a while, the authors of their work will read the finished product in class in the hopes of avoiding “boos” from classmates if they’ve violated the rules.  Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s learning. Yes, it’s camouflaged. 

If you’re looking for opportunities to present material in an unusual (o.k., unorthodox) way, try camouflage learning.  It can change the way material is presented….and learned!

Do YOU have your own, unique, camouflage approach?  Let me know! Find me on Twitter @Chieftainlinks and share your ideas!

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Topics: Teaching Advice

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