Mind-Boggling Student Engagement: Effective and Exciting Ways to Activate Their Brains!


What are some of the most effective ways to engage your students?

In the coming months, our blog will be taking a deeper dive into various ways to activate and engage your students’ brains along with examples of how teachers are using these approaches in their classrooms.

According to brain research, the more engaged children are, the more active their brains are to receive, remember, and recall information that they learn! But how do we activate those brains and get them engaged? There are many approaches that work; presenting lessons via multiple modalities, playing to learn, using educational technology tools, and social-emotional learning, to name a few. 

So what do those approaches look like in the classroom?

We’ll begin with Multiple-Modalities and focus on a few modalities in each blog until we cover them all, and then move to other engaging approaches in future blogs.

Multiple Modalities: Novelty and Visual

Novelty by definition is the quality of being new, original, or unusual. This study published in the journal Neuron, suggests that the regions in the brain responsible for releasing dopamine respond better to the novel which most powerfully activates the brain. “To engage students, you have to engage their brains,”  says John Almarode, Brain-Based Education Researcher and Leader. Using novelty in lessons is a great way to get your students engaged because the brain loves novelty and when used to convey information, the brain is more receptive to learning.

Mr. Greg of The Kindergarten Smorgasboard is one of the best at using novelty in his classroom. Imagine the excitement of a kindergartner walking into class and seeing their teacher dressed as Amos Alligator (Amos is a character from supplemental curriculum Greg uses in his classroom).

On this particular day, the math lesson included Amos Alligator. Using novelty like dressing up, is a great way to surprise your students and get their brains activated and ready to learn!!

Visual by definition is related to seeing or sight. Visual learners need to “see” information to learn it. Images, pictures, colors, and maps are some examples of what works well for these learners. There are so many different visuals that a teacher can use to engage their students’ brains.  

Abigail Peterson from Kindergarten Chaos incorporates Environmental Print – print that students already recognize and can easily identify.

There are multiple ways to incorporate environmental print in your classroom, but it is a MUST, in order to create a print-rich environment! Again, don’t forget that having ‘print’ that students already recognize and can easily identify is the initial step in bridging the gap from reading pictures to reading words.  -Abigail Peterson

We’re glad you stopped by and hope you enjoy this blog series. Next time we will talk about Kinesthetic, Audio, and Cross-Curricular modalities and what those look like in the classroom.

Now it’s your turn to share! 

We LOVE to hear from our readers, so please share examples in the comments or on your social media of how you’re using Novelty and Visual modalities in your classroom!

Don’t forget to use #HelpShiftHappen and tag us @AliveStudiosZoo



Help Make a SHIFT in Education

Help Shift Happen

Guest Blog by: Adam Peterson, TeachersLearn2


It’s no secret that teaching is a tough, demanding, and ever-changing job!  As educators, we are always looking for ways to do more for our students, but sometimes we all need a little help to do so!  So, today I’m offering some help to all of you who may be looking for a way to HELP SHIFT HAPPEN in your own classroom!  Let’s do this!

S – H – I – F – T !

S – Step Out

Engagement is such a huge factor when it comes to the progress that happens in your classroom!  If students are engaged in their learning, then they’re most likely going to retain that knowledge better.  Sometimes creating engaging lessons and environments requires you to STEP OUT of your comfort zone a little bit!  I had a student one year in my kindergarten classroom who was interested in nothing but…wait for it…Pokemon!  Yep, that’s all he wanted to talk about, read about, and learn about. The trouble is, I knew nothing about Pokemon!  So, I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned as much as I could about Pokemon. I created lessons, found books, and created a Pokemon hunt activity to help my students learn about the layout of our school!  Needless to say, that little guy was engaged more than ever, and we had a blast learning things we were already going to learn about anyway. Trust me when I say I stepped out of my comfort zone! I searched all over and pieced together a costume that looked like the famous Pokemon trainer, Ash Ketchum, and wore it on the day we did our Pokemon hunt around the school.  Funny hats and costumes aren’t necessary, but engaging your students based on their interests is!


H – Help

Asking for help isn’t something to be afraid of.  As teachers, we work best when we work together. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers for help when you need it.  Whether it be planning lessons, creating new units, or simply talking through classroom issues, having a strong team to turn to makes all the difference.  Reaching outside of your classroom and school is another way to get the help you need! I always open my door to volunteers! Parents, grandparents, and community members are such a great asset to HELP SHIFT HAPPEN in your classroom!


I – Independent Learners

Teaching is the best job in the world!  I absolutely love working with children and seeing the magic in their eyes when they learn new things!  But, as much as I love teaching and working with my students, I also know it’s important to help them reach a level of independence.  Helping SHIFT happen across grade levels is only possible when we work to create lifelong learners!  Getting students to want to learn on their own is such an important part of our jobs, and can be easier than you think!  Creating an environment where students are able to work at their own pace to reach individual goals will help all of you reach the goals you have set for them!


F – Fun

One of my favorite parts of teaching was hearing my students, and parents of students, say how much fun our classroom was!  I make it a point to make learning as much fun as possible on a daily basis!  There’s really no secret to this at all!  You know you love to do things that are fun, you enjoy things that are fun, and you remember times in your life that were fun!  Well, kids are people too, and they love FUN just as much as you! Share your classroom fun using #makelearningfun


T – Teachers Learn Too

Teaching better to me means always doing what you can to improve yourself as an educator.  Whether it be reading a resource book, an inspirational book, watching webinars, or attending conferences, I am always trying to make myself better as a teacher!  The power of social media has made this easier than ever!  Follow teachers on social media, join groups on Facebook, and watch YouTube channels!  There are so many awesome educators willing to share their knowledge, but why not do the same!  If you have awesome things to share, do it! Use #helpshifthappen


It is my hope that these ideas are nothing new to you!  Hopefully, you’re stepping up and stepping out on a daily basis – creating the most engaging and fun environments you can – constantly learning and making yourself better all the time!  If you’re doing these things then you’re definitely HELPING SHIFT HAPPEN, and I applaud you!  Keep being awesome!


  • Adam Peterson


Join Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal!

At the beginning of 2018, our team came together to talk about our mission to provide Mind-Boggling Engagement for Early Literacy.

We decided that we wanted to come up with a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal to go along with our mission. If you’re not familiar with a BHAG, it’s an idea from the book, “Built to Last” by James Collins and Jerry Porras. A BHAG is a goal that is so audacious that it may appear impossible to reach. So why would anyone create a goal that seems impossible to achieve?

Well, a BHAG isn’t just about reaching the goal. Its audaciousness inspires us to take a leap of faith; urges us to persevere;  and encourages us to work harder and more creatively to reach our goal! Even if we don’t reach it, it will produce INCREDIBLE things!

So … are you ready for it?

Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to shift the Nation’s Report Card from only 37% of our 4th graders reading proficiently to over 70% reading proficiently!!!

Yes! We know. It’s BIG and HAIRY and AUDACIOUS! That’s why we’re inviting you to join us to Help Shift HappenActually, you’re already helping. Whether you’re an educator, parent, community or business … you, in your own unique way, directly or indirectly are affecting children to be the best they can be!

This is what we’re asking you to do:
Share ideas and stories of how YOU are helping kids learn to read.

– Post on your Facebook or Facebook Live
– Make an Instagram Story
– Share on Twitter
– Write about it on your blog
– Become a guest blogger for Alive Studios

Whichever way you share, be sure to use the hashtag #HelpShiftHappen

Let the world know how you’re making a difference! This will take a multitude of great people, but our kids are worth it and our communities depend on it!