WhyTry Head Trainer Bruce Bushnell answers:
There are two magic words we use a lot around here: BUY-IN and FRAMING. When you’re creating buy-in with your students and properly framing each lesson, you’ll rarely, if ever, have a disengaged youth in your classroom.
Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. All you need are a few tricks. The following strategies come from teachers and mental health professionals nationwide, as well as from my own experience as a school counselor.
HOW TO CREATE BUY-IN
1. Surrender the one-up relationship.
We hammer this in at trainings, conferences, and in our teacher’s manuals. That’s because it’s one of the most important components of the entire program! When you create a sincere, caring relationship with an individual or group, they will know you believe in them and will be there for them despite their weaknesses and mistakes. Students are more likely to listen to you and respect what you have to say when you’ve surrendered the one-up.
2. Use all of WhyTry.
Sometimes teachers are concerned that students aren’t “into” the WhyTry lessons as much as they should be. That’s when I ask, “Are you using the music?” “Are the students responding to prompts in their journals?” “Are you doing the activities?” “Are you telling the stories?” “Are you using relevant multimedia?” The answer to all of these questions is usually “No.” If you’re not pulling in strategies that engage every learning type in your WhyTry lessons, you’re not really achieving the mission of the WhyTry Program. When you just commit to using all of WhyTry, your students won’t want to miss a single lesson!
3. Have a “wow” day.
On the first day of class, avoid the usual approach of hammering your students on the rules and the schedule. Instead, give them a first impression of your classroom that will make them want to return every day for the entire semester. Start out with an engaging warm-up activity. Find fun ways to allow them to express their feelings.
When I taught the WhyTry class at a local high school, my students were all youth who were attending classes only 30 percent of the time. The attendance in our class, however, was between 85 and 90 percent. When the principal asked me why our attendance was so high, I told him, “They want to be here. They don’t want to miss what’s going on.” When you break away from the “same old routine” they tend to see in their other classes, your students will have a reason to come to class and a reason to change.
HOW TO FRAME YOUR LESSON
The way that you introduce a concept or principle can often make or break the way it is received.
Think about the purpose of a picture frame. A good frame will draw your eye to the art, right? Now take a look at the frame around this picture.
Does it focus you in on the subject? Or does it detract from the beauty of the painting? What about this one?
Whew! That’s more like it! Framing a lesson should be the same way. The words you use as a teacher can make all the difference in the world.
The following are some important elements of a good frame.
1. A good frame answers, “What is it? Why is it important? What does it have to do with me?”
Make sure to show that there is something in this lesson for them. Give them a reason to listen to you.
2. A good frame creates meaning.
Provide a common frame of reference. The WhyTry visual metaphors, for example, allow students to relate the principles they are learning back to a picture, say, of a roller coaster. They’ll remember the lesson because you gave it meaning.
3. A good frame provides an emotional hook.
Help your student feel something. Studies have shown that when students are engaged on an emotional level, they retain more and pay closer attention. The emotion you create doesn’t always have to be sentimental: Excitement and humor are some other highly effective emotions. When you create an emotional hook, you build a desire in students to learn more.
Sometimes, as educators, we lack excitement about a subject and it comes across in our teaching. A few years ago, I was supervising college students who were teaching WhyTry at local middle schools. I went to supervise two different groups who were teaching the same lesson in two different schools in the same day. In the first school, the students were pumped! “It’s WhyTry time! We can’t wait!” they exclaimed when the equally excited student mentors arrived. You could literally feel the energy in the room. The lesson was amazing, and group participation was high. In the second school, the teacher who introduced the student mentors said, “Well, they say we have to do this activity. Let’s get to it and get it over with.” No one was excited. The lesson was not at all what it could have been. I truly believe the contrast between those two lessons had everything to do with framing.
For example, take a look at the contrast between these two frames:
- “This is all we get for resources. It’s just our tough luck.”
- “Today we get to tap into our creative skills! This is our objective, and these are our resources. Any ideas on how to solve this dilemma?”
See the difference? Help your students see challenges and “less exciting” lessons as opportunities, rather than roadblocks.
These strategies will make all the difference in the world as you try to engage the youth you work with. Create BUY-IN by surrender the one-up, using all of WhyTry, and having a “wow” day. FRAME your lesson by showing youth why it’s important, giving it meaning, and providing an emotional hook. The result? A group of engaged youth who are so excited to be sitting in your classroom every day.
Bruce Bushnell is a WhyTry trainer, former school counselor, and creator of several of the WhyTry learning activities.
For more great ideas on creating buy-in from day 1, click here. For several “surrendering the one-up” strategies, click here.
You can also give us a call at 866.949.8791.