50 Dramatic Engagers for Learning and Performance: A Guide on Active and Collaborative Strategies Aligned with the Brain's Natural Way of Learning

50 Dramatic Engagers for Learning and Performance: A Guide on Active and Collaborative Strategies Aligned with the Brain's Natural Way of Learning

by Carmen White . Lennie Smith

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ISBN-13: 9781496943927
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 11/07/2014
Pages: 172
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.37(d)

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50 Dramatic Engagers for Learning and Performance

A Guide on Active and Collaborative Strategies Aligned with the Brain's Natural Way of Learning


By Carmen I. White, Lennie A. Smith

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2014 Carmen White. Lennie Smith
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4969-4392-7



CHAPTER 1

Introducing Dramatic Engagers


What are Dramatic Engagers? We are glad that you asked! Dramatic Engagers are strategies that require each participant to be involved in the learning of content. They directly help teachers and trainers increase both attention and participation by focusing on brain-based learning instead of traditional lecturing, which provide opportunities for the brain to process and to retain the information. Participants perform and practice what they learn through active and collaborative activities and creative drama techniques. This makes learning Fun, which helps your learner reflect, recall, and retain the information. Dramatic Solutions' new approach help participants apply what they learn. Keeping participants engaged is the best way for them to gain knowledge. Teachers and trainers using the strategies in this book will be inspired and motivated to use Dramatic Engagers to improve their classroom teaching techniques, while their participants fully grasp the information, making the processing of new data more meaningful and productive. Dramatic Solutions' Engagers are a scientific- and researched-based model. Hundreds of studies on active and collaborative learning show tremendous social and academic gains over traditional teaching and learning.


TOP GENERAL OBJECTIVES FOR DRAMATIC ENGAGERS

a) To break the ice and relieve tension for brain.

b) To stimulate the brain by using as many senses as possible.

c) To prepare the students to learn.

d) To increase safe and positive learner interaction.

e) To protect the dendrites in the brain to increase the processing of new information.

f) To build the sense of fun and pleasure through active engagement.

g) To boost confidence and self-control.

h) To boost morale and teamwork.

i) To build cognitive and critical skills.

j) To increase the opportunity to change and maintain the learner's bright affects.

k) To inform and empower.

l) To reduce threat in the space and foster safety.

m) To practice collaborative and cooperative skill sets.


The idea that good teachers and trainers become great when they allow themselves to learn from their students is more than a cliché. This notion embodies our perspective on the 'teacher-learner' relationship, as well as, the knowledge transfer process. And, perhaps not too surprisingly, as noted earlier in this chapter, 'learning' begets learning. As such, the cognition process (itself a structural element) can be considered an engager as well.

Dramatic engagers utilize emerging trends and best practices in learner engagement and achievement of cognition, which are found throughout the medical, scientific, and academic literature. Some of these interventions and activities include (About.com - Secondary Education, 2014):


Participatory Activities

• Kinesthetic learners would include writing down information that they are to learn.

• Visual learners could create word webs, Venn diagrams, or other visual presentations of information.

• Auditory learners could read a passage aloud from their textbook or from handouts.


Instructional Modalities

• Employing Inclusive Teaching Strategies

• Student Engagement through Active Learning

• Leading Dynamic Discussions

• Utilizing Technology

• Service Learning


The following creative modalities are deployed heavily in our ongoing academic and clinical practice. We have found them to be extremely effective in the participant learner-engagement process.


Creative Modalities

• Music

• Art

• Dance

• Play

• Performance

• Communication


When utilizing different teaching modalities, the information is reinforced by all the different senses. In addition, some participants as we will discuss later, prefer one of the modalities over the other. By utilizing different approaches, you have a greater chance of reaching every participant.


ENGAGEMENT WITH THE BRAIN IN MIND

It is almost guaranteed that the following question will arise in the minds of a vast majority of learners, "WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME"? The curiosity may be expressed in many different forms and vary widely from person to person. However, whether stated or unstated, Can YOU answer this opening inquiry? It is a seemingly simplistic, yet huge, underlying question for all of your learners. More important, are you able to provide an answer that acknowledges the multiple learning styles that exist among individuals? In addition, will your response take into account the enormous variations in how the BRAIN processes information?

Recognizing that the brain is an organism within the human body and understanding how this highly capable component (brain) processes information is crucial to tackling the opening question successfully–"What's in it for me"? This realization extends well beyond the answer to the query. Subsequent insights influence how you plan, approach, and assess your entire repertoire of teaching and training experiences.

The human brain is masterfully designed, so much so that most people are unaware of the full extent of its functionality. Short of a researcher or neuroscientist, the average individual simply does not grasp the direct correlation between actual brain functionality and what we do and how we think or, conversely, how brain activity impacts what we do not learn and retain. A pervasive lack of knowledge about the brain's role in cognitive processing has resulted in a vastly underrated view of this awesome human body component. Fortunately, contemporary scientific research provides greater clarity about the multiple aspects of cognition. In addition, the literature is replete with studies that illustrate how the process of learning has EVERYTHING to do with the power embedded in our brains.

Brain-based learning is the application of a meaningful group of principles that represent our understanding of how our brain works in the context of education. When we take time to establish a learning environment that is compatible for brain-based learning, we are giving our learners a chance to engage with strategies that are predicated upon body, mind, and brain anatomy. In other words, by maximizing the capabilities of the brain, we are increasing our chances for real learning to take place.

The Brain-Based Learning Theory similarly echoes these concepts. Perhaps the most important message communicated in this publication is that the brain possesses vast capabilities, which are nurtured through creativity and thrive in sensorial environments. The ingredients in this equation work best when a catalyst (or engager) is applied. For humans, as sentient beings, the more exposure the brain receives, the more robust the development of this organism's inner mechanisms. This results in a greater capacity to absorb information and an enhanced ability to migrate the new information from short-term to long-term memory. This is not surprising considering the fact that our brains contain the largest area of uncommitted cortex of any species–giving humans an ultra-flexible capacity for learning (Brain Facts and Figures, 2014).

(Jensen, 2008) epitomizes the underlying constructs in contemporary neuro-science, which inform our understanding of cognition in his work entitled "Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching." Jensen illustrates the framework of Brain-Based Learning through the acronym 'ESP' whereby this popular 3-alphabet 'cliché' is representational of what is required to support the fundamental application of this process. As a construct—'E' = the active ENGAGEMENT of 'S' = purposeful STRATEGIES based on 'P' = PRINCIPLES derived from neuroscience.

This point is underscored by renowned physician and neuroscientist-turned educator Judy Willis in her work entitled "Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students' Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success" (Willis, 2007). She highlights the emerging correlation between neuroscience and classroom instruction, noting that "Now, educators can find evidence-based neuroimaging and brain-mapping studies to determine the most effective ways to teach, as advances in technology enable people to view the working brain as it learns." (Willis, 2012) similarly contends, "... neuroscience research implications for teaching are also an invaluable classroom asset, it is time for instruction in the neuroscience of learning to be included as well in professional teacher education."

More incredibly, some very basic facts about the brain reveal an astonishing organ, which consumes about 20% of the body's energy and constitutes a critical portion of the central nervous system. Comprised of nerve cells connected by nearly 1 million miles of nerve fibers, our brains use about 1/5 of the body's oxygen. The brain gets about 8 gallons of blood each hour (supplying nutrients like glucose, protein, trace elements, and oxygen) and requires 8-12 glasses of water a day to function at its best (Brain Facts and Figures, 2014).

As educators, teachers, and trainers, the ultimate goal of what we do is not too far removed from the results achieved by the inner workings of the brain. That is to coach, share, teach, and expose learners of all ages to information in a way that is long lasting and meaningful. Consider the voice of (Willis, 2006, Chapter 1) as she cogently states in "Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning." "Learning promotes learning. Engaging in the process of learning actually increases one's capacity to learn." With repetition of activities or content absorption, the brain's neural mechanism is strengthened and 'imprinting' of information or performance skills occurs.

The power of the brain lies in the degree of stimulation and nurturance it receives. The extent to which we feed it what it needs on a consistent basis can unleash an almost limitless capacity. The synergies derived generate more levels of creativity and make space for storage of more information. Such is the case because modern science has proven that people are unable to learn or absorb information when the brain is turned off.

Imagine the following scenario:

Begin typing information on your computer and press the "Enter" key without checking to see if the machine has been turned on. Obviously, the computer will not work if it is not powered on. Similarly, just because we (humans) function on 'automatic pilot' for our most mundane actions, does not mean the computer (in this case our brain) is ready to work. The computer must be turned on to work. The same applies to our learners. One of our main responsibilities as educators and facilitators relative to our learners is to help ensure that the BRAIN is turned on.


The following chapters in this book contain dramatic engagers, the intrinsic components of which help to crystallize vital elements within the brain that are essential for learning and comprehension at meaningful and memorable levels. The reader will encounter multiple layers of informative content in Chapter Two. However, it is important initially to examine the six principles to creatively teach the whole brain. These principle—movement, socialization emotional, meaning, safety, and enrichment feed this organism.


Movement

When oxygen and glucose travel to the brain, this human organism functions at an increased rate. Physical movement plays a strong role in assuring that this process takes place and is an effective way of distracting the brain from daily stressors and negative thoughts. Exercise can generate a more relaxed state by producing endorphins—"the feel good neurotransmitter"—and ultimately stimulating the inherent desire for 'more of the same'. In addition, research offers further insights into the importance of motor development in brain functioning. Motor skills contribute substantially to an essential platform utilized by the brain in its sequencing of patterns needed for academic concepts.

In this connection, it is important to inform your learners of the strong correlation between movement and brain cognition. We found that sharing at least one objective and anticipated benefit of dramatic engagers to be a motivating factor for the learners. Informative communication can evoke a solid buy-in and commitment to the learning activities (Rogers, 2003). For instance, we discovered statements, such as, "The more you move, the better your chances of nurturing the brain and the better your chances are for taking in new information" to be helpful in our practice.

There are many opportunities throughout the dramatic engagers that involve kinesthetic 'hands-on' exercises, exertion, and movement. Most important, the physicality derived from utilizing these dramatic engagers will fuel the brain via the sensory of balance, coordination, spatial awareness, and visual literacy.


Socialization

Socialization acts as a major highway to brain engagement. The literature informs us that the brain functions at a higher rate when it is connected with other brains—creating a synergistic effect. Goleman notes, "our social interactions operate as modulators, something like interpersonal thermostats that continually reset key aspects of our brain function as they orchestrate our emotions (p. 6). In other words, creating healthy social interactions in the learning space increase the brain's capacity to develop and activate the neural bridge connection. For an extended period of time, neuroscience did not establish a direct correlation between socialization in the classroom and the brain's ability to change and grow. More recently, however, an expanding body of research findings offers definitive evidence that social intelligence is quite stimulating to the brains' ability to store more new information. Bolstering an awareness of this paradigm shift regarding socialization and cognition is fundamental—in fact critical—to education reform efforts across the country. It is imperative that our educators consider the benefits of constructive social and behavioral interactions during instruction periods.

Socialization inherently demands engagement and this construct coincides with the work of Gardner's multiple intelligences (2000). We now know how prominent it is to have positive social interactions during the learning process, specifically because it impacts and affects our cognitive development. Importantly, Jensen (2005) posits, "Data from multiple sources (social and behavioral studies using both physical data and functional neuroimaging) indicate that the development and influence of the social cognitive brain is not limited to just one area (p. 95). Another salient finding from contemporary research on learning, cognition and the brain is that embracing the natural organic connections between socialization and learning also builds relevancy for participants.


Emotional

Emotional context serves as the nexus for many of the creative strategies found in the book's succeeding chapters. Emotions provide a strong conduit for stimuli that help the brain learn. According to Jensen (2008), emotions are key when it comes to the brain in storing and its retrieval of information, particularly in shaping meaning to incoming data. Specifically, positive emotions stimulate the brain for learning and provide an organic method of garnering the brain's attention. Similar to an electrical switch plate, emotion charges the brain and serves to maximize how information travels throughout the organism. On the other hand, negative emotions typically drive the brain into a survival mode causing the brain's dendrites to come to a halt (Goleman, 1995). This is neither healthy nor productive for the brain.

Once positive energy and an aura of happy feelings and thoughts are present, the brain pays attention in a way that is beneficial to our learners. The process that arises from positivity is critical because it enables learners to absorb information as well as translate it into meaning. Therefore, this scenario enhances the opportunities for learners to become reflective thinkers, creative thinkers, critical thinkers, and problem solvers (Smilkstein, 2011).


(Continues...)

Excerpted from 50 Dramatic Engagers for Learning and Performance by Carmen I. White, Lennie A. Smith. Copyright © 2014 Carmen White. Lennie Smith. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface, ix,
Acknowledgements, xiii,
About the Authors, xv,
Functions for Dramatic Engagers, xvii,
Chapter One: Introducing Dramatic Engagers, 1,
Chapter Two: Setting the Stage for Learning, 31,
Chapter Three: Engagers That Prepare the Brain for Learning, 43,
Chapter Four: Engagers That Develop Team Building, 60,
Chapter Five: Engagers for Social and Emotional Skills, 89,
Chapter Six: Engagers to Teach Content and Skills, 110,
Chapter Seven: Engagers for Review and Reinforcement, 137,
References, 149,

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