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Tag Archives for " motivating teachers "

Student Engagement

Increasing Internal Student Engagement

 Increasing Internal Student Engagement

Many teachers are seeking ways to increase student engagement in the classroom. The purpose of this blog is to help teachers do just that. I am going to address an area of student engagement that most teachers overlook. That area is internal student engagement. Teachers must consider what it is they want a student to be doing internally while they are presenting material. When I ask teachers what they want the students to do while they are speaking, their answer most often is they want them to pay attention. Well, what does this mean? I want to help you clearly identify what that means for both you as a teacher and for your students. I believe all engagement should start with teachers and students knowing the desired outcome of student engagement.

Student EngagementThe following are examples of what a teacher may want students to do as they are speaking or presenting material. First, do you want students to imagine a scenario in their mind as a result of something you say? Would you like for them to bring up images about a certain phenomenon? Is your intent to make them become curious or begin to wonder about a certain thing? Would you like for them to become angry, empathetic or feel indifferent about what you are saying? There are times you may want them to compare their situation to another with which they are unfamiliar. Knowing exactly what your goal is during your presentation is absolutely critical to being able to elicit a particular response. Identifying what you want them to do internally sets the stage for learning.

Once you have identified what you want students to do it is time to determine what questions or statements will elicit those internal responses you desire. For example, if you want students to imagine a scenario then use questions that cause this to happen. For instance, you could say, “What do you think will happen when…,” and, “Suppose you are in a situation where…” I am suggesting that instead of simply giving answers to students, work on prompts that engage their minds immediately. Consider using prompts such as, “What do you think will happen if…” “You know how most people think…” and “Do you ever wonder why it is that….” I believe it is incumbent upon every teacher to begin a discussion with a phrase, question or statement that opens the minds of the students. Students will be less likely to get off task if you begin by focusing their minds on a topic immediately.

Another way to engage students is by creating a little cognitive dissonance into their lives. By this I mean, the teacher takes something that students think they know and show them how it is not true. I used this technique when I was an earth science teacher and I talked about hurricanes. When I introduced my unit, I would tell the students that as we learned about hurricanes, they would find that although the term hurricane means “big wind,” it is not the wind that kills most people during a hurricane. I would play up the fact that the windspeed of a hurricane’s core can be 75 mph but that some modern hurricanes have topped out above 200 mph. I would ask them to think about video of hurricanes they have seen on television and how the palm trees are swaying so violently in the wind. This would pique their curiosity even more. As I vehemently claimed that the wind was not the major cause of the loss of human life during hurricanes, I would not tell them the major cause, but rather let them figure out the answer as I moved through the unit. Creating that tension kept them on task and on target.

Other examples of how to keep their minds engaged is to use statements like, “Based on what I am about to share, in just a few minutes I’m going to ask you to…” Here is one of my favorite statements that commanded their immediate attention. “Here are some things that most people believe are true about today’s topic. Which ones are true and which ones are false? There is extra credit for the teams that get this right.” Additionally, I ask you to try these next two lines. They really get the students thinking. “There is a common belief that…..  So why do you think that the truth is that…..?” Please understand that these statements can be used anytime during class. They do not have to be used just when introducing something new. Whatever the next thing is that you are about to talk about, figure out how to put it in a question so that they have to immediately start thinking about a possible answer. I have found that students get bored when simply given fact after fact after fact to memorize. 

There are two things about what I have shared thus far. First and foremost, I recognize that it involves a little more preparation. Especially at first. However, it will become much easier as a little time passes. It is definitely worth the extra prep because students will not only participate internally, but will start to shout out answers and make the class livelier.  I also recognize this is similar to using the Socratic method. However, the difference is that instead of asking questions and getting an immediate response, these questions or statements are made with the explicit purpose of creating internal dialogue by those who are receiving the information. 

It is not enough to tell students to pay attention. Teachers must pull students into the lesson and make their ideas part of the lesson. By using the strategies listed above, students will know the specific things they need to do internally because the teacher is prompting them to do so.  By incorporating their ideas and thoughts the lesson becomes more interactive and thus more engaging.

Larry with Linda Dawson from RAPSA

Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students

Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students

Over a decade ago, I presented at a SIATech Conference in California. In my presentation, I spoke about the importance of using the term “at-promise” as opposed to the term “at-risk”.

Larry with Linda Dawson from RAPSAI had been promoting this concept for years because of my belief in the necessity of focusing on a student’s potential and positive attributes as opposed to their challenges. It was at this conference that I met Linda Dawson. She told me that she believed it was important to embrace the term “at-promise” and she intended to make this a priority.  

A short time later, she contacted me to discuss using my term “at-promise” as the premise for forming the organization RAPSA, which stands for Reaching At-Promise Student Association. I agreed and thought it was a wonderful idea!

However, I never could have imagined that RAPSA would go on to use this concept to successfully push for, and eventually pass, a law called AB-413 that changed the California Education Code. Yet, that’s exactly what they did. 

Changing the Mindset of Teachers Working with At-Promise Students

This action is so much more than semantics. AB-413 is about changing the paradigms, or the mindsets, of teachers that work with these students. This idea is essential in getting teachers to recognize the potential of these students and use that potential to guide them to success. 

Larry with Ernie Silva from RAPSAOn November 13, 2019, I presented on Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students at the RAPSA Conference in San Diego. What made this conference exciting was the fact that RAPSA is building a successful movement to create change. It’s a movement that is grassroots.

Most of the people involved are teachers or principals that work directly with students that are struggling. This is not a top-down change. This is a change practitioners feel is imperative, and they’re fighting the fight to make it a reality. They were successful in making the change in California, and they’re now helping other states to do the same. 

Getting AB-413 passed is a tremendous accomplishment, and I congratulate all of those who worked hard to get it done. However, we all are aware that much more work needs to be done going forward. Now the rubber must meet the road. Now teachers and principals must implement the strategies necessary to provide the support these students need.

It’s one thing to believe it, and it’s another thing to have strategies to act upon it every day. This is why when RAPSA asked me to conduct a workshop that was designed to specifically show teachers how to do that, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Using Specific Strategies to Empower Teachers 

I provided the teachers with a multitude of simple strategies they could implement every day that would help students academically. I also gave them specific strategies to use to build positive relationships and create positive classroom cultures.

In addition, I modeled ways to make the classroom more engaging and talked about how to determine if students are, in fact, engaged. We discussed ways to bring these strategies back to the school and help others to get on board and use them as well. It was a fun, strategy-packed workshop! Workshops like these will help teachers and principals ensure that all of their students are successful. 

There is much that remains to be done in California to create learning environments that support the students of today. The challenges that these students face are different in several ways from those of students in decades previous. As a result, our schools and classrooms need to be different as well.

As we move forward in doing this, we will create schools that are relevant and that embrace and support all of our students, allowing them to reach their greatest potential.

Attend a Larry Bell Seminar in 2020!

For any of you that are interested in creating a movement like this in your state, you may contact me and I can put you in touch with RAPSA. You can also visit their website at RAPSA.org. 

For those of you interested in learning more about Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students, you can attend my two-day seminar on this topic which will be held in two locations. The first will be held from February 24-25, 2020 in Milpitas, California. The second will be held from March 2-3 in Carlsbad Beach, California.

For more information on these seminars, you can visit the seminar page of my website Larry-Bell.com. Hope to see you in California!

The Importance of Hiring a Speaker for Staff Development

The Importance of Hiring a Speaker for Staff Development

Many administrators grapple with the issue of whether to have staff development conducted by a professional or by someone “in-house.”

In order to determine what’s best, consider the importance of the information you want to present or the objective of the staff development. If the purpose of the staff development is merely to convey information, then an “in-house person” may be able to do just fine.

However, if the purpose is to create some type of change, or motivate staff, or try something new, then it may be best to bring in a professional. You’ve heard the saying, “It is hard to be a prophet in your own land.” Well, that’s often the case! People seem to be more willing to try new or different ideas when someone from the outside presents them. 

Here are just a few reasons why you might consider hiring a professional speaker to increase the effectiveness of your staff’s development training!

Implement Changes for Future Generations of Children

Bringing in the right professional speaker can change the school for the better for years to come. Professional speakers help teachers grow. Many teachers actually use the information and materials for years. Many speakers have posters and one can see the posters still in use over a decade later.

Since many professionals have written books on their topics, teachers can refer to the book for additional information if problems develop years later. For these, and other reasons, a school can be changed for the better for years as a result of a professional speaker presenting to the staff.

Overcoming In-House Speaker Challenges with an Outside Perspective

Using “in-house” presenters can sometimes prevent teachers from growing. For some of your staff, using people on the staff to train them is a non-starter.

There can be personality conflicts. Some teachers won’t listen to another staff member simply because they don’t like them. They definitely won’t use their recommendations, no matter how sound the strategies. A school may have saved a few dollars, but at what cost? If the message wasn’t received and the objective wasn’t achieved, then what was the point? 

An exception to this is when a professional presents to the entire staff and then trains a leadership team that will then meet with the other teachers throughout the year to implement new ideas. This has worked well for schools I work with because I train the leadership team to effectively address issues when they crop up. I also provide them the support to interact effectively with their colleagues.

Build a Stronger Case for Change

Another consideration is that a good professional speaker brings additional data and research to build a stronger case for using the strategies presented.

“In-house” presenters can sometimes struggle when asked penetrating questions that go beneath surface-level information. Professional presenters are accustomed to this and professional speakers welcome the opportunity to showcase their knowledge. Answering questions from the audience also takes the discussion deeper and in the direction the audience wants it to go. 

Sometimes teaching staff needs an influx of new ideas. A professional presenter should bring proven new ideas from a myriad of sources. The presenter can also give another perspective on old issues. Sometimes issues grow stale. A fresh set of eyes, enthusiasm, and resources can jump-start things whereas “in-house” ideas may be seen as just more of the same!

Encourage Professionalism and Excellence in Your School

The final reason to use a professional speaker is the message it sends to the staff about professionalism and excellence. A good professional speaker models both.

A professional speaker exhibits the qualities that an administrator should look for in a classroom when conducting a classroom visit. Things like punctuality, organization, and knowledge should be on display from the beginning. Other attributes such as passion, excitement for the topic and ability to engage everyone in the room in the lesson are imperative for successful training and learning.

Administrators that arrange for a training should not have to hope that their “in-house” people will demonstrate these things. Professional speakers are your best chance to have excellence modeled and to ensure that your message is well received and your objective is achieved. 

Have you considered hiring a professional speaker to motivate and train your staff for the coming school year? Consider enlisting the skills and experience of a professional speaker for your staff development training!