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



Augmented Reality (3D) Storybook

augmented reality storybook for children

We are introducing a new augmented reality printed storybook, Amos Alligator Arrives at the Airport, into our current line of reading and math programs for PreK to 3rd graders. Our new interactive storybook is one of only a handful in early education that utilizes the emerging technology known as augmented reality. The accompanying free Storybooks alive™ app provides young readers with an unforgettable 3D experience and transports them into an imaginative and exciting adventure. It’s so funny when teachers see our animated characters pop into their mobile devices. They get as excited as the kids do!

Our main products are great in the classroom, but we didn’t have a product that encouraged parental engagement… until now. The free Storybook app is rich with activities for parents and children to work through together and is available now on the iTunes App Store and Google Play and the printed book can be purchased from www.StorybooksAlive.com. With the app, young readers can point their tablet or smartphone camera at the pages in the storybook and have the characters jump to life in augmented reality on the device. The 3D elements and characters then interact with the reader as they’re touched on the screen. Children can have the book read to them by the app with a simple touch or they can read by themselves. Our first augmented reality Storybook teaches the letter A and the sounds it represents, along with several sight words as children are engaged with Amos’s adventure. We’re very pleased to be announcing our new book at ISTE 2016 in Colorado June 27-29, one of the premier technology shows for education worldwide.

Another Cool Augmented Reality Tool

aurasma for education

Hello fellow CEO’s … Chief Education Officers!

I am blessed with the opportunity to speak at several educational conferences around the country about augmented reality… one of my favorite topics. I know we develop our own augmented reality software for classrooms, but it is always good to see what others are doing with this cool technology in education.

Our passion is to provide educators with nuggets of information and practical tools that can be brought back to classrooms. Augmented Reality will be a huge part of this next generation. One of the leaders in the space, Magic Leap, has raised over one billion dollars in investment startup capital; demonstrates the interest and potential this technology offers. If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out.

aurasma for educationI know we are all looking for differentiated learning experiences that engage our students. One of the products I want to share with you is called Aurasma. Aurasma is a free DIY (do it yourself) augmented reality app for your smart device. You can use it to “bring to life” anything or object in your classroom. The thing I really like is its intuitive menu system. It doesn’t take long at all to find your way around it and begin creating your own augmented reality magic.

I put a short video together to show you how easy it is to use Aurasma. In the video you will notice I make ordinary vocabulary cards come to life. You can use this wonderful little app to teach so many things… you are limited only by your imagination. Enjoy!

Volume Bonus for School Districts

school district pilot program

Below is a recent Press Release announcing our Proficient by 3rd Grade District Level Volume Bonus Program:

Alive Studios Helps School Districts Win the Reading Challenges for At Risk Students

Alive Studios is introducing a Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus program for school districts to test and prove the Letters alive early learning reading program.

Alive Studios has structured a program that allows school districts to test and prove the effectiveness of teaching with Letters alive within eight classrooms. “We encourage districts to test and compare student outcomes between classes using Letters alive and those not using Letters alive.” stated Cynthia B. Kaye, CEO and Chief Zoo Keeper of Alive Studios. The volume program comes with a full-year of free online digital assessments for measuring, tracking, and reporting the progression of students. The generated reports can be shared with teachers, principals, and even parents in English or Spanish. The Alive Studios’ team will also come on-site and trains the participating teachers how to most effectively use Letters alive with their students and how to track their outcomes. Says Kaye, “We’re convinced that once districts try the bonus program and see the results for themselves they’ll want to make this available to all their at risk students.”

“We’ve been busy spreading awareness of our game-changing supplemental reading program, Letters alive, by introducing it to teachers around the country.” added Kaye. “What we’re finding at trade shows and during demos is that teachers love our solutions, but 74% of them don’t have the purchasing authority to obtain it. We realized we needed to take our solutions to the district level.”

at risk studentsAmerica has a literacy crisis among our early learners and serious solutions are in demand. “An alarming number of children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole,” cited Ralph Smith, Managing Director of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

With almost 7 out of 10 students not proficient in reading by 3rd grade, early intervention with a proven solution is crucial for establishing the foundations for high school graduation and career success. Alive Studios’ difference maker is a mind-boggling technology called Augmented Reality. It creates a 3D experience without glasses and provides off-the-charts engagement that increase student outcomes. Now, over 1,500 classrooms are learning letters, letter sounds, sight words and sentence building in a revolutionary way.

The program is especially effective with At Risk students including ELL, ESL and Special Needs. Independent Research has proven a 48% increase in letter naming fluencies and 112% increase in letter sound fluencies by implementing Letters alive in the classroom. “My students love seeing a new animal each day and their reactions to the animals coming to life is priceless! Letters alive brings a whole new engagement level to our ABC BOOTCAMP!” stated Greg Smedley-Warren, Kindergarten Teacher at JE Moss Elementary, a Title I school in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus Program is available to any school district. Interested teachers and principals are encouraged to inform their district leaders about the program. Details about Letters alive and the bonus program can be found at www.AliveStudiosCo.com/beta/program-2.

Content is King for Classroom Technology

Content is King for Classroom Technology

So, after a long wait and a lot of pleading you finally got that new computer, or that new smartboard. Now what? Do you have the really cool content you need to engage students?

As we make the trade show tour, we have the pleasure of seeing all the latest educational technology; fast, streamlined computers and big, crystal-clear displays. Like kids in a candy store glaring at the shiniest and most colorful lollypop, we all fall into the “I have to have this” category. But when we get it into our classrooms, we realize it doesn’t solve any of the major problems we face with early learners. Are they now learning letter sounds and letter naming more effectively? Does the new tech reach both ends of the learning spectrum? Are At Risk students now achieving better results? Can ELL students grasp the English language any quicker?

One common void we discover amongst the hardware tech crowd is the lack of content. content is king for classroom technologySure they offer the ability to do “it” quicker, bigger, and with more wow.. but do what? It’s the content ON the device that makes the difference. It’s the software application that brings the device to life and solves problems in classrooms.

It reminds me of a story about a little boy who had a $5 bill and wanted to buy a wallet. After shopping several stores, he found the perfect one. It fit his pocket, it felt good in his hand, and it only costed $5. You can guess the rest of the story. Having spent his $5, the little boy had nothing to put into his new wallet. Just like the wallet with no money, a new computer or smartboard just isn’t that impressive without content.

So, if you’re given the green light for new technology, remember to save some funds for engaging content that will help make a positive difference in your classroom.