By Tyler Conrad ’17
High-school students live a life of routine, sleep, school, extra-curriculars, homework, repeat.
Often times during the school week, and even on a smaller scale during the school day, it all seems to blend together.
The hard part about high school classes is that some of them plain and simply don’t pique the interests of students.
This is life; not every math-whiz is going to love English, and not every science fair winner will be a star Spanish student.
This factor being noted, students can still rather easily differentiate between classes in which they feel engaged and active in their learning, and classes that feel a bit more sluggish.
The most immediate and rather simple explanation to this pattern is a variation of tasks or activities taking place in the classroom.
“Studies have shown that the average high school student has a little less than 20 minutes of solid concentration at a time,” said Social Studies teacher Mrs. Kristen Venberg.
As a student, these studies are pretty easy to believe.
A class that begins with small group discussion or activity, breaks into lecture or note-taking, and concludes with a reflection activity is much easier for students to remain active in as opposed to a fifty-minute lecture.
Take note, this is not to say that lectures are boring or unimportant, as anyone knows they are a key part to most classroom experiences. Rather, it is the concept of remaining with one type of pedagogical approach over a period of 50 minutes that becomes redundant, whether it be a lecture, group activity, or even class discussion.
This concept is known as differentiated instruction, and many believe it is the best way to keep students engaged and learning.
“In Mr. Damaso’s class, we are constantly switching between activities and discussions” said Jastej Sra ’17, who is currently enrolled in Mr. John Damaso ’97’s AP English 3 class.
“It definitely helps me stay awake in class, always having something new going on,” Sra ’17 added.
Teenagers are used to having multiple things on their mind, so by creating multiple classroom elements, they are able to constantly satisfy their attention span.
In Mrs. Venberg’s own AP United States History class, one of the most content-rich courses on campus, time is spent not just reviewing through lecture, but also by watching videos and through group activities.
“Personally, I don’t like to hear myself talk all hour, so how can I expect my students to stay tuned in?” Mrs. Venberg said on her class dynamic.
Whatever the case, differentiated instruction seems not only to be the best way to keep students engaged, but also to benefit their learning as well.