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7 triggers that guarantee student engagement: Part I

Okay . . . guarantee is a strong word.

Encourage might be better, maybe stimulate. Jump start?

But it doesn’t really matter what word we decide on.

I think using some of the ideas that Sally Hogshead pushes can help increase the chances for grabbing and keeping the attention of our kids.

Sally wrote a book called Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation that came out about a year ago. What she talks about in the book are the powerful strategies that are used to influence thinking and decision making. Fascinate is targeted at marketers and ad folks but the ideas seem to be exactly what stressed-out teachers are looking for.

So . . . imagine a middle school teacher trying to elicit engagement and excitement about the Compromise of 1850 with 13 year olds. What to do? Sally has some suggestions . . . seven to be exact. She calls them triggers. A trigger is “a deeply-rooted means of arousing intense interest.”

Sally says it just a matter of picking, choosing and combining the right triggers and your kids will be eating out of your hand.

So what do these triggers look like?

Trigger One – Lust

And I know what you’re thinking. Sex and 13 year olds – not a good mix. But Sally says lust is about more than sex. You only have to go as far as watching the people in line outside of an Apple store when the iPad came out, the smell of a new car or the incredible taste of chocolate-covered bacon to get what she’s talking about. It’s about stimulating all the senses of your audience.

You want to use this trigger to try and create a total sensory experience.

How to integrate lust into your instruction:

  • Create a welcoming classroom environment. Clear out the clutter in your room, hang attractive posters, arrange tables or chairs in small groups.
  • Use a variety of media to appeal to different senses. Use music as kids come into the room and during instruction. Think about food and the power taste has. One teacher I know even used the smell of fireworks while her class watched battle clips from the movie Glory to imprint memories.
  • Create great-looking slides for your presentations. There are some basic design principles that can help. And don’t forget to apply the same design principles to your handouts.
  • Basically remember that everything your students see, hear, smell, taste and touch impacts learning and engagement.

Trigger Two – Mystique

Mystique is seductive. Mystique compels people to want to find out more. The brain is designed to solve problems and we need to find ways to incorporate that into what we do.

How to use mystique in your instruction:

Trigger Three – Alarm

Alarm hits our survival mechanism. It pokes people and forces them to take action.

How to use alarm in your instruction:

  • Clearly spell out expectations and consequences – good and bad. These expectations should focus on classroom management issues and academics.
  • Make deadlines clear.
  • Use surprising hooks to catch students’ attention at the beginning of lessons and units.

Used appropriately, Sally’s triggers can help you engage kids in content at very high levels.

Next week? We’ll finish up with the last four triggers.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the interesting post. It’s an intriguing strategy: using business marketing strategies on students. The first one “Lust” is something we try to tap into, in a way. We provide free online flashcards for students, but we know students “lust” after their mobile phones. So we go to where the students are — on their phones.

    January 20, 2011
    • glennw #

      Thanks for the comment. Cell phones are definitely something we tap into as teachers!

      BTW, just got my account set up on StudyBlue. Still playing around with it but it looks like a handy tool.


      January 20, 2011
      • Great to hear you’re set up on StudyBlue, Glenn. I’d love to get your thoughts on what works well and what could use improvement. We’re finding a lot of teachers are using StudyBlue to create flashcard decks of vocab/key terms for students to study. Or teachers are asking their students to create flashcards and then “Share” them with the teacher so he/she can check that the students created the flashcard deck.

        January 20, 2011

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  1. 7 triggers that guarantee student engagement: Part II « History Tech

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