Unpopular Opinion: I’m not a fan of Engagement Theater.
(For me, authentic engagement is where it’s at.)
Ok, so I’m not saying I’ve never used food, crazy outfits, games, or other rewards to motivate or engage my students. Of course I have, and these things absolutely can have a place in your classroom.
My daughter is way more interested in something when it’s a competition, and if we had some novelty factor (like eating that chicken with tongs instead of a fork), for sure that plate gets cleaned way faster than the typical night.
But when we consistently apply these “Engagement Theater” strategies to learning in our classroom — when we need to apply these strategies to learning in our classroom — it’s usually because we’re hiding the fact that we have not established an authentic rationale for the learning. We haven’t given our students a relevant, meaningful “need-to-know” — and so we fall back on Jolly Ranchers and dress-up and games.
Instead of relying on Engagement Theater to keep our students interested, we should be putting our efforts into authentic engagement — into crafting experiences that cultivate curiosity and spark intrinsic motivation, that create lifelong learners who just want to know and experience and figure out the world around them.
Then, when you have that authentic engagement established, feel free to add in whatever crazy costumes and sweet treats your heart desires. In the long run, your students will appreciate both.
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