How Do We Keep Our Lessons Engaging? Does Innovation Play A Part in This?

I struggle with the question of keeping my lessons engaging for my first grade students, partly because their attention spans are so short. I have a few things that I use to help me keep them excited, awake, and away from the nurse’s office (everyone always wants to go because she gives them a mint if they say their stomach hurts). One thing I do is schedule brain breaks regularly. My class loves GoNoodle. “GoNoodle helps teachers and parents get kids moving with short interactive activities. Desk-side movement helps kids achieve more by keeping them engaged and motivated throughout the day. GoNoodle is designed with K-5 classrooms in mind (HealthTeacher, Inc., n.d.). I use it on my SmartBoard and do the activities with them. I often try to exaggerate the motions to look way sillier than my students, which helps my shy or easily embarrassed students feel more comfortable to dance or exercise with our class. I also like that it has an indoor recess movement mode. It was very helpful on days when I had my kindergarten class in my room for recess last year.

Being a new teacher, I feel pretty excited every day that I have my students, but I really related to our text when I read, “On all of those days when you don’t have passion for your content, you must consciously make the decision to focus on your professional passion” (Burgess, 2012). There are lessons that I am just not excited to teach. I actually cringe every time I have to come up with an art lesson. I want to integrate art with what I’m teaching in the classroom to make it meaningful, but that becomes a huge ordeal of searching through websites, District Art Kit lists, and Pinterest. I am not artistic and art is usually a messy and chaotic time in the class. I know that I just need to jump in and teach art each week, but I would much rather focus on reading or math, honestly. I am going to consciously try to focus on my passion when it comes to teaching art. My students love creating art and I need to facilitate it for them.

Art leads me to the thought of failure. I want to be successful with my lessons and I know my art lessons may be unsuccessful. I need to remember that failure leads to growth. As Burgess (2012) wrote, “If you haven’t failed in the classroom lately, you aren’t pushing the envelope far enough. “Safe” lessons are a recipe for mediocrity at best.” I think this is where innovation meets growth as a teacher for me. I am planning a Chibitronics unit for my students this fall. I am very nervous about the unit because it involves light-up circuit stickers and copper tape. I worked with my sixth and tenth grade nieces to make a circuit. It was not easy and it took us over a half hour to get a circuit sticker to light up. The entire time I kept thinking, “How am I going to do this with twenty-four six year olds?” I think we are going to do a lot of practicing and will watch some of the tutorials located on the Chibitronics Learn webpage (Chibitronics, PTE LTD, n.d.). I also was recently told about a place to get copper tape that might not be as flimsy or delicate as the tape that came with my circuit stickers. So, at least I have a place to start and even if we fail, we will still learn and try again and I know my students are going to be engaged and excited.


Burgess, D. (2012). Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Chibitronics, PTE LTD. (n.d.). Learn – Introduction. Retrieved September 3, 2015, from Chibitronics:

HealthTeacher, Inc. (n.d.). GoNoodle. Retrieved September 3, 2015, from GoNoodle:


3 thoughts on “How Do We Keep Our Lessons Engaging? Does Innovation Play A Part in This?

  1. Cherie, I enjoyed reading your entry this week, and I too am especially interested in how failure plays a role in my development. I’d like to challenge you a bit on your assertion that you are not artistic. What is the definition of “artistic” that you are using to exclude yourself from?


    1. I appreciate that you asked about my assertion that I am not artistic. I am not very good at drawing, but my students don’t mind. I think my issue comes from my desire to have art projects that tie into what I am teaching in my classroom. I struggle with it all the time. I feel like it needs to connect to student learning. I know that art is a stand alone subject, but I feel like I’ll be judged if I don’t have it connect to what I am teaching. I am also having problems finding art projects for my students.


  2. It sounds like you “worry” about what will engage your students, which is exactly what we should be doing! It should bother us if they are not interested, engaged, or motivated to learn. Of all the subjects, I loved how art was the one where you could never be “wrong”, there was always room for me to decide what and how I wanted my work to turn out. There is also this tendency for us to compare ourselves to others, so when we look around at our peers (much like students do), we hesitate to try something because others around us do it so well. Burgess really calls us out when he writes about being safe and equating that to mediocrity! Ugh! Who wants to be mediocre! I’m revisiting these earlier blogs and I’m struck by how we’ve all enhanced our understanding of leadership and change!


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