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February 18, 2022

Four “GEMS” (Ways) to Start Your Classroom Lessons, with Resources and Courses

As educators, where would we be without our acronyms!? We use acronyms to follow frameworks, to recall teaching tools, and to adhere to procedures and processes. We’ve created this shiny new “G.E.M.S.” acronym to remind us of four ways to start classroom lessons: Games, Engage, Move, Shift. Learn more about all four of the GEMS below:

Strategy 1: Games 

 “Learning is not all fun and games,” is a phrase you can cross off your list! Research tells us students thrive in competitive settings, and for those hesitant to compete with others, there are plenty of games for players to compete against themselves. Whether the games are digital, like those listed here or tried-and-true like Monopoly, Risk, Uno, Cribbage, and Backgammon, introducing gaming and game-based learning to students will bring excitement and teamwork to your classroom. Let the games begin!

Strategy 2: ENGAGE 

As children, we listened to stories and hung on the storyteller’s every word. We were engaged, entertained, and curious about what would happen next! When starting any lesson, we strive to engage students with our material and hope they will pay attention. One tried-and-true way to create engagement is through storytelling. Whether stories are told aloud or digitally, they increase engagement and learning!  

Resources: To brush up on your storytelling talent, tune into The Moth Radio Hour and enjoy listening to stories from those invited on stage to tell theirs.  

Coming soon from The Moth this book, “How to Tell a Story.”  

Bonus Tip: The Moth includes an Educators’ Resources page

Strategy 2: MOVE 

Our bodies are designed to move! Moving our bodies surges feel-good endorphin, serotonin, and oxytocin hormones into our bloodstreams. It provides a way for us to purge negativity, improves the health of our joints, and strengthens our bones, muscles, and hearts. Just 10 minutes of movement a day can even help us live longer! Think about the amount of movement in your lessons, and if they need more, (most do!) start lessons using music and games, and add opportunities for students to demonstrate learning using movement to your curriculum. Then, observe as students become more energized, engaged, and your health improves too! 


How to Make Movement a Part of Your Classroom Culture” from the National Education Association (NEA) 

10 Minutes a Day May Help Those Over 40 Live Longer” from Prevention 

To Boost Learning, Just Add Movement” from The Cult of Pedagogy 


5853: A Moving Body, A Thinking Brain

5106: Learning on the Move!

5854: Moving Math

Strategy 3: SHIFT  

The addition of distance learning to deliver instruction has put a spotlight on the necessity of wait time. When asking questions or requesting feedback from students, 15-30 seconds can seem like forever. Yet, best instructional practices tell us, when starting a lesson with the expectation of responses, we must wait to allow students to organize their thoughts and formulate their answers. To remind us to wait, we can shift our mindset, and change the name from “wait time” to “think time.” When starting a lesson, we can shift our approach from “waiting for students to respond,” to allowing time for thinking. What other instructional strategies could use a shift?  


The Importance of Wait Time” from 

High Quality Resources for Inquiry-Based Teaching” fromChildren’ 

8 Exceptional Inquiry-Based Learning Activities Students Will Love” from 


5147: Bringing Students from Unfinished Learning to Soaring Achievement

5144: Inspire Student-Driven Learning with Questioning and Inquiry

5136: Beyond Growth Mindsets for Learning without Limits

731: Mindsets Matter

Use the acronym, “GEMS” as a reminder to infuse curriculum with gamification and game-based learning strategies. Engage students through digital and auditory storytelling. Rely on the research and include movement throughout the day. Review the instructional strategies you rely on most to see if there are opportunities to make mindset shifts. Students will notice, and you’ll be energized too!


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