An Interactive Explanation!
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Writing a book was never something we ever--I mean EVER-- thought we would do. We have always enjoyed our roles in the classroom and in many ways have felt like teaching children is our calling. Although our preferences may be a bit different, (Mr. Merrill prefers the little in 1st whereas Mrs. Merrill’s sweet spot is a bit older) our methods for teaching are quite similar. We love to integrate technology in ways that foster learning through memorable experiences and engaging learning. Through our years of teaching and the connections we have made along the way, the InterACTIVE Class was born. Let’s dive in a bit more into what InterACTIVE teaching and learning is and how our students can benefit from having an interACTIVE mindset.
What Does it Mean to be InterACTIVE?
InterACTIVE teaching involves students by allowing them to become ACTIVE participants in their own learning while giving them both choice and voice within the learning environment. InterACTIVE teachers shift their thinking from WHAT they teach to HOW they teach! By being more responsive, we can include students in their own learning adventure and create rigorous lessons that they will stick with and work through because the level of engagement is high. Being interACTIVE doesn’t always mean you have to be up and moving, or literally being active, but rather refers to the reciprocal relationship between teacher and students that happens in the classroom.
Why is Interactive Teaching and Learning Important?
Learning doesn’t come easy for all, and as educators, it’s our job to create a learning environment that is safe and comfortable for all learners. When sensory information enters the brain, students can either react to it or interact with it. If a student feels scared, uncomfortable, embarrassed, left out, and so forth, they will challenge any information trying to enter the brain. They will react to it negatively and try to avoid the learning tasks being presented. Students today are growing up in an environment so much different than when we were growing up and thus need to learn in an environment adapted to their needs. This is where the role of an interACTIVE educator comes in. If we can create learning environments centered around students, places that reflect the learners and their personalities, a place where they feel in control and valued, then their brains won’t fight our teaching, but rather be open to learning and instead interact with the content. InterACTIVE learning excites and engages students thus giving them the drive to work through challenging tasks and assignments.
How Can You Become a More Interactive Teacher?
Teachers can be interACTIVE not only in how they teach, but also in how they set up and run their classroom. Change doesn’t happen overnight, nor should we expect it to. Creating an interACTIVE learning environment comes through small changes, each one building upon the other until a solid foundation is formed. Be prepared though--because change is often followed by challenge. Change isn’t always easy, and it is to be expected that as we change the way we teach, the practices we follow, the programs and applications we use, there is going to be struggle. But don’t forget that there is a special kind of learning that comes when you struggle through something, and the benefits when you make it out on the other side are well worth the small speed bumps you may encounter along the way.
In our book, The InterACTIVE Class we discuss further what this interactive method of teaching looks like. The process starts with preparing lessons for students and gathering the materials you need to teach with based on the standards you are required to cover. Then you must innovate and find ways to present information in new and responsive ways for your students. This could be through Hyper Docs, Novel Studies, project based learning, inquiry and so much more. Then before you start a lesson you need to visualize it and take the time to mentally plan it out. Ask yourself questions like “How long will the lesson realistically take?” and “What role will I play throughout the lesson?” Then it comes time to carry out the lesson and observe what the students do. Are they working in relation to how you expected or do you need to reflect on things you saw and troubleshoot. This final step of troubleshooting is important because it gives you time to revisit a lesson and possibly revise it in ways that make it even more responsive to the students. Once you have reflected, you circle back to preparing a new lesson and getting ready to create another interACTIVE learning experience.
Elements of an Interactive Classroom
There are many simple ways you can start creating an interACTIVE learning environment for you students. Remember, not all strategies or suggestions work for every specific learning environment and as the educator you get to choose based on the individual needs of your learners.
Music: It has been proven that music helps students learn and activates various parts of our brains. It also helps students regulate emotions. It can be integrated into a classroom during quiet work time, or used as a way for the class to bond. One of our favorite ways to use music is through Mystery Introductions. During the first week of school we give each student the task of choosing a song that represents them, which they then secretly turn into the teacher. Every day you play one song and the class has to try and guess who the song belongs to.
Movement/Games: Getting students up and moving isn’t just good for their brains, but working together as a team helps build community and a sense of family. Dice, timers, buzzers and other small tools can easily be added to lessons to make more interactive and engaging.
Humor: Keep the learning environment light and leave room for errors. Let students know they are safe and can make mistakes. Humor is a great way to move past a mistake without bringing a lot of negative attention to a student.
Novelty: As hard as it can be, try to stay current with the thing students are interested in--Tik Tok, Fortnight and other trends are ways to connect with students and the ability to bring them into a lesson instantly creates excitement and engagement.
For more information on interACTIVE teaching and learning, connect with us on social media at @themerrillsedu. We also encourage you to check out our book titled The InterACTIVE Class where you can find the ideas mentioned here discussed more in depth.
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About the authors
Kristin Merrill 👗
Kristin is a fourth grade teacher, certified Microsoft Innovative Educator, and Certified Microsoft Innovative Educator. She is an ambassador for: Flipgrid, Seesaw, Classkick, and Buncee. Kristin has co-hosted events like Ed Camp Flipgrid, and is also one of the moderators of the #FlipgridFever chat. She has been teaching for over 13 years and works hard to engage students in learning by reaching them in ways that are responsive, relevant and interACTIVE through the intentional infusion of technology in the classroom.
Joe Merrill 👓
Joe is a first grade teacher and certified Microsoft Innovative Educator. He is an Apple Certified Educator, Certified Microsoft Innovative Educator, and Flipgrid Certified Educator. He is an ambassador for Flipgrid, Seesaw, Buncee, and Book Creator. Joe is also one of the moderators of the #FlipgridFever Twitter chat. He has spent the last four years implementing 1:1 iPads. Joe has self published several eBooks:
“#AppSmashing with @MrMerrillsClass” (Vol. 1 & 2), which are available for free download on themerrillsedu.com.