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Posted by on in Student Engagement


Children's author, Laura Numeroff is famous for her "If you give..." series of children's books. Each one demonstrates the relationship between cause and effect. Her books fabulously illustrate the practice of strategic thinking. There are obviously many factors to consider before giving a mouse a cookie or a pig a pancake. The same is true for educators ---there are many factors to consider when planning to give an assignment to students. What if a part of my planning was visualizing the outcome of the educational experience I am designing for my students? Would it change what I would do? What are the outcomes when I give a student a worksheet, or when I give my class a lecture....

If I give a student a worksheethe will pick up a pencil and fill in the blanks or circle the best answer or perhaps write a short answer to surface level questions. This will demonstrate compliance by completing the assignment and demonstrate memorization by answering correctly. Then, he will turn the worksheet in to me to grade. Once I grade and return the worksheet, he will look at the grade, shrug his shoulders and stuff the worksheet back in his binder. At the end of the school year, he will take the worksheet and toss it in the recycle bin. 

But if I give a student a blank pagehe will demonstrate his learning through drawing, writing, and designing his own explanation of his learning. He will utilize critical thinking and creativity. Then, he will be able to explain his learning to his classmates and me, demonstrating not only compliance and memorization, but also application and understanding. He will experience learning....deep learning.

If I give a student a lectureshe will demonstrate compliance by listening quietly as I talk. She will be a receptacle for knowledge dispensed by me as she fills in a graphic organizer with words and thoughts given to her by me. She will turn in the graphic organizer for me to grade. Once I grade and return the graphic organizer, she will look at the grade, shrug her shoulders, and stuff the organizer in her binder until she pulls it out to memorize the facts given to her by me for the test she will take. At the end of the school year, she will take the graphic organizer and toss it in the recycle bin. 

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

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To create conditions optimum for learning, educators must understand how students learn. Hand in hand with nurturing a growth mindset is the understanding of the role of learning in our lives. Benjamin Barber, a political theorist, once observed:"I don't divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the the successes and the failures. I divide the world into the learners and the non learners."

As educators, it is imperative to define for ourselves what learning should be. What educational practices are in the best interest of young learners and how can you best bring those theories into practice? Here a few ideas:

  • Learners should be challenged. Through differentiation and a teacher's understanding of her individual learners and grade level standards, each student should have assignments and assessments that are appropriately challenging requiring him to initially struggle, yet develop perseverance as he progresses toward mastery. Students should be asked to think critically, solve problems, and reflect.
  • Learners should be leaders. According to National Training Laboratories, students retain 90% of the material when they are required to present it or teach it to others (http://www.teachinontario.ca/employment/En/3b_strategies.html). In classrooms, opportunities should be given for students to present materials and instruct one another. When students are given the freedoms of choice and voice in the classroom, they learn.
  • Learners should be active. Learning is not a passive verb and learners are not merely spectators. Allow students to interact with one another and move away from the desk. Embrace the practice of small group activities that require students to actively learn through playing on the floor, competing in games, or participating in campus-wide scavenger hunts.
  • Learners should be creative. Give opportunities to create in different ways using technology, scientific experiments, visual and performing arts. Hands-on opportunities regularly enrich the learning experiences of students.

Establishing what you believe about learning helps you be more intentional in both modeling and implementing these practices as you and your students experiene learning together. 

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Posted by on in Professional Development


Recently, I read an excellent article by Jennifer Gonzales called 5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Unmotivated Students.   In it, she masterfully models the practice of reflective teaching and offers five vital considerations to make when working with unmotivated students. 

As I read the article, I kept thinking that there might be two questions to consider about yourself as an educator  before you can address the needs of unmotivated students in your classroom. They are:

  • Do I believe ALL of my students are capable of learning and growing? 
  • Am I willing to do whatever it takes to help my students achieve beyond their capabilities?

Success for students essentially comes down to their teachers' answers to these two questions. If the answer is "no" to either of these, then the ability to motivate students will always be hampered. 

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