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Novel Ways To Activate The Learner

Definition: Novelty is anything fresh new or original.

Novelty ensures ‘attentional bias’.

“Unfamiliar activities are the brain’s best friend,” says Arnold Scheibel of the University of California (1994); he goes on to explain that the fact the brain is so stimulated by novelty, may be a survival response. Anything new may be threatening to the status quo; and thus, represents a potential danger. Once we have become accustomed to an environment or situation, however, it becomes routine and the reticular formation in our brain begins to operate at a lower level. Once a new or novel stimuli is re-introduced, the reticular formation gets alerted once again and the brain is stimulated to grow.

The latter fact is particularly interesting when considering Cooperative Learning Structures. The steps of a Structure provide the routine and ensure predictability and low stress, when combined with varied content the combination of structure and content means it retains its novelty and therefore engages the student. This combination makes the structures unique in their ability to cater for all learners needs.

Eric Jensen in his book ‘Teaching with the Brain in Mind’ puts forward some practical suggestions for creating novelty:

  • Change in location – move students to another part of the room, another classroom, the hall or outside.
  • A surprising piece of music. (See TopNotch Tunes For Teaching T2TUK shop Downloads)
  • Invite a Guest speaker.
  • Use fun and energising rituals for class openings and closings and most of the repetitious classroom procedures and activities.
  • A change in voice tonality, tempo, volume, or accent.
  • Props, noisemakers, bells, whistles, costumes, singing, magic tricks, aromas, different lighting.

Teachers need not become circus performers. To the contrary, in the best classrooms the students are the ‘show’. But teachers must recognise that constant changes in tempo and time are critical in learning.

(See ‘Ideas For Classbuilding, Teambuilding and Energising’  in T2TUK Club ’Freebies’)

So there we have it …a few ideas and suggestions from T2T(UK) to go on with.
Over to you….GO ON!

  • provide nourishment for your student’s brain
  • refresh your students
  • increase their alertness
  • create that brain friendly classroom with emotion, challenges and social interaction
  • have FUN!
“Too much novelty and not enough ritual leads to chaos…..too much ritual and not enough novelty leads to boredom.”
Eric Jensen

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Make a positive difference by bringing ‘Teacher to Teacher UK’ (Kagan-UK) Professional Development to your school or cluster. T2TUK/Kagan-UK team offer INSET Workshops, Keynotes and Open Enrolment Events. Full details of the workshops offered can be found in the training events page and 'In School Training' menu of this website.