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Total Engagement Learning System

The secret to real learning--learning that lasts--is meaningful engagement. When students are fully engaged in their work---working in a real-world context, using vocabulary, skills, and concepts familiar to experts in the field---learning happens naturally. When students are truly absorbed in meaningful work, memorization, drill and practice, and worksheets become unnecessary.

The trick is not just to engage students in the first place, that's the easy part. The trick is to keep students engaged.

The Total Engagement Activity

The secret to keeping students engaged is a real-world context. Placing a learning activity in the context of something real, gives students an authentic reason to learn the concepts and skills that we want to teach.

An authentic activity works to engage students for three reasons: CONTEXT, PURPOSE, and DIFFERENTIATION.


A real-world context makes learning meaningful. (Newspaper article, or other authentic report establishes that context.)

An authentic activity gives students a concrete reason to learn concepts and skills.

Authentic activities demonstrate how people with different skills, interests and jobs can all use and apply the things that they are learning in school. In the classroom this means role playing, and role playing means natural differentiation.

TELS activities have three unique components:

Heart Rate is a TEL activity
set in the context of baseball.

Background - The Background of a TELS activity gives the facts from a news story then assigns students a role to play in the context of that story.

Procedure - The heart of the activity is an authentic task that engages students in playing a role as they use target concept/s and/or skills to solve a real-world problem.

The TELS procedure is left open-ended  so that students can design their own experiments. More detailed step-by-step procedures are also provided in ancillary readings. This allows teachers to decide whether or not to make the activity is an inquiry activity.

Conclusion - The conclusion in a TELS activity is not the traditional lab conclusion. A TELS conclusion requires the application of concepts and skills in the same ways that professionals utilize their knowledge. TELS conclusions look like the correspondence, charts, forms, plans for future action, scripts, and brochures and pamphlets. that professionals produce.

The Total Engagement Unit

The secret to long-term engagement is an AUTHENTIC PROJECT set in a real-world context. The PROJECT gives students a reason to learn and apply the concepts and skills that we want to teach. These natural needs are met with a collection of carefully selected Total Engagement Activities. Each activity provides a specific concept or skill needed for completion of the project.

An authentic project works to engage students for three reasons. CONTEXT, PURPOSE and DIFFERENTIATION.


A real-world context makes learning meaningful. (Television news coverage of a real event)

An authentic project gives students a reason to learn the concepts and skills required for completing the project.

Authentic, real-world projects require the cooperation of people with different skills and interests. In the classroom this means role playing, and role playing means natural differentiation.

Initial engagement is like a "hook." One way to hook students and engage them in a topic is by showing them exiting TV news about an event related to the topic. For example, if you want to have students learn about plate tectonics, show them TV coverage of a real earthquake. This not only engages students, it establishes the context for learning. That's the way we do it in Event-Based Science---the first TELS curriculum project.

Following the hook, students in a TELS classroom use guiding questions to discuss the hook. The discussion reveals student's prior knowledge of concepts associated with the hook.

When students are challenged to assess their readiness to tackle a TELS PROJECT, they find themselves lacking. When asked, they will even identify the concepts and skills they need in order to complete the PROJECT---students will ask to be taught!

During the next three to four weeks a TELS teacher uses cooperative and other active-learning strategies to provide the concepts and skills that students need to tackle the project. Demonstrations, videos, textbooks, and all of the other tricks of the teaching trade can be employed during the instructional phase of a TELS unit.

Event-Based Science® is a tested and proven example of the total engagement learning system.



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Last updated on Tuesday, March 27, 2007