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Tag Archives for " students "

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.

Effective Strategies Seminar

A Dynamic Opportunity in Memphis

A Dynamic Opportunity in Memphis

Memphis will soon be the site of a tremendous opportunity to help your students. On October 28th and 29th, a seminar entitled “Effective Strategies for Struggling Learners” will be held.

Effective Strategies SeminarThe purpose of this seminar is to help educators work more effectively with students that struggle in the classroom. The main thing that many take away from this seminar, other than the specific strategies, is this main point—all students are capable of academic success regardless of their social or ethnic background. High expectations transcend all barriers. They transcend race, gender, and economics.

Participants hear the message “do not let anyone tell you who you can or cannot teach. Who you can or cannot reach.” This seminar revives spirits. It reignites the passion and love for teaching that many educators lose track of over the years.

In the past, administrators have sent some of their “naysayers” knowing that they’ll come back believing in their students and in their ability to reach them. This is just one of the reasons so many have attended this seminar in the past!

What else does this dynamic opportunity offer educators?

Specific Strategies to Improve Student Achievement

This seminar is entitled effective strategies because it features strategies I’ve developed that schools have used across the nation to help struggling students exponentially improve their achievement.

The results are usually a tremendous increase in student test scores for individual teachers, schools, and districts that take the strategies they learn at the seminar and use them consistently with their students all year long.

I became a teacher because I believe that students from challenging backgrounds like my own are just as capable of academic success as anyone. These strategies have helped to prove this point for many years.

An intriguing factor regarding the strategies is that they’ve been shown to be effective for Pre-K through 12th grade, and in schools that are economically well off as well as in those that are economically challenged. This opportunity to use additional strategies combined with what a school may already be doing is often the boost schools need to get to the next level.

Boost Teacher Enthusiasm and Creativity

 Another reason the seminar works so well is that bringing a group to the seminar is like taking the teachers on a retreat to bond, regroup, and refocus.

This fresh perspective can be crucial in October because it allows the group to assess what’s happened up to this point and acquire new ideas for the rest of the year. It’s like a breath of fresh air away from the day-to-day pressures of teaching.  

Educators can get back in touch with why they became a teacher in the first place. Many who attend mention how much fun they had while learning. I call this inspiration plus information, and ask each participant to practice this with the students in his or her classroom. It’s something that I model throughout the seminar. Just as when I was a teacher, I try to make it so much fun they don’t realize how much they’re learning!

Networking Opportunities 

This seminar is extremely interactive and allows participants to network with each other. This not only gives them more information and additional techniques, it allows them to meet and talk to people they can correspond with over time. I’m very proud to say that many have done this with excellent results. This seminar is an excellent opportunity for educators of all levels to supplement the strategies they have.

Let’s not forget that Memphis is a fantastic city to visit as well.  It’s conveniently located on the border with Mississippi, while giving quick access to those in Arkansas along with the great folks in Tennessee. It also has an international, world-class airport. Memphis offers great food, music, and entertainment to enjoy after a busy day at the seminar.

Register Online or Contact Me!

So what are you waiting for? You can register online or email me for more information. I hope to see you at this year’s Effective Strategies for Struggling Learners seminar on October 28-29, 2019.  If these dates don’t work for you, consider joining us in New Orleans February 10-11, 2020!  

Strategies to Develop a Positive Teacher-Student Relationship

Strategies to Develop a Positive Teacher-Student Relationship

In recent months, many educators have asked me about developing good teacher-student relationships. I see this as a good thing.

I believe this area of education has been grossly undervalued and overlooked for many years, especially at the secondary level. There is much research going back to the 1980s that demonstrates the benefits of a positive teacher-student relationship. These relationships are important in all schools, regardless of income levels or cultural backgrounds. 

The question is: what does a positive teacher-student relationship look like?  Part of the issue is that many teachers seldom take the time to figure out what a good teacher-student relationship means to them. In addition, many administrators tell teachers they want to see positive relationships but don’t explain what they’re looking for.   

There are probably as many ways to develop relationships as there are individuals on the planet. However, there are some basic fundamentals in relationship building between teachers and students that seem to work in almost any circumstance. What follows is a list of the fundamentals as I have observed them in the most successful classrooms nationwide!


There’s a saying that, “Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care!” The most important thing is to build a foundation based on students knowing that you care about them.

It’s important they understand that they are more than just a test score to you. Find out about them as human beings, and interact with them as people first and students second. They’ll go out of their way to learn your material when they know you have their best interests at heart, and that your efforts are about more than just teaching the material.

So what does caring look like in a teacher-student relationship? Here are just a few examples:

  1. Asking questions. “How was your weekend?”
  2. Remembering the details. “I remembered you said your mom was sick. How is she doing?” 
  3. Paying attention. “You seem a little down today. Is everything okay? Is there anything I can do?”


Give the students individual time as much as possible. Too many teachers have the mistaken belief that they don’t have time to interact with the students individually.

Time can be made by prioritizing, and especially by the teaching methods that you use to present material. If too much time is spent lecturing, there’s less time for face-to-face interaction with the students.

Giving students more responsibility for their own learning using different modalities frees the teacher to do more one-on-one interactions. Face-to-face time is how humans bond!

So what might devoting your time to each student individually to build a relationship look like?

  1. Working out obstacles to learning. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to sit right here with you and we’ll do it together.”
  2. Devoting after-class time. “See me after class and I’ll help you with this assignment.”
  3. Consider group time. “Everyone, get a partner and share how you work the problem. I’m going to walk around and visit the various groups as you share your wonderful work with each other.”


Be understanding and positive when students make mistakes. All of us needed positive guidance as we were growing and developing.

When students know that you’re not going to be overly judgmental and critical as they’re learning, they are more likely to engage in the learning process.

What might being positive look like in your teacher-student interactions?

  1. Being understanding of mistakes. “It’s okay to make a mistake. This is how we learn!”
  2. Encouraging them to take their time. “It takes me a while to pick up certain things too. It’s okay. Take your time!”
  3. Showing devotion to their success. “I’m here to help and I love the way you’re working so hard on this. We are going to get this! Whatever it takes, because you are awesome!”

Pointing Out Strengths

Positive affirmation in the form of pointing out strengths is something some students rarely experience. Be that special someone. Let them know that you see them, the whole person, the wonderful often hidden talents others may not acknowledge.

Sometimes their strengths are things that they don’t recognize in themselves. Pointing out strengths is an example of one of the little things that causes students to bond with a teacher. It helps the student realize that you see them as a person and value them. It also builds confidence in the student!

How can you point out strengths in students to build that essential teacher-student relationship for success?

  1. Acknowledge their efforts. “You’re such a hard worker. I love the way you work hard and try hard in my class every day. Thank you for that!”
  2. Point out their attention to detail. “I love the way you’re always able to pick out the main idea in a story or a passage. You are absolutely phenomenal with this. Keep it up!”
  3. Praise a specific skill. “Your math skills when it comes to long division make me so proud. You are outstanding with this!”

There are obviously many other ways to build a good teacher-student relationship; these are just a few things that may help. If you have others, try writing them out and breaking down good examples of how to use these things more effectively and positively. Please feel free to share your ideas as well!

Enter Into a Bold New Frontier!

Enter Into a Bold New Frontier!

My friends, often I am asked about the latest things I see in the educational field as I travel the nation and indeed the world.

Normally I share things I’ve done or things that schools I’ve worked with have done for long periods of time. I have to tell you that what I will share now is new to me. It’s a tremendous idea that only a few teachers are using nationwide.

You must have some courage to do this, but I believe it will be the wave of the future. I also believe that it will be very helpful to students, including those at both ends of the achievement spectrum. I believe that gifted students will be able to take this idea and fly even higher, but it is with the struggling, at-risk students that I believe this strategy can have the greatest impact.

If you’re a teacher who likes to be at the forefront and interested in a dynamic, small project you can work on from now until the end of the year, and especially over the summer, read on and come fly with me!

Make a Video to Teach Students

First, for many reasons I advise you to get permission from your school administrator to do this project. I would love to give credit to the teacher who gave me the idea, but for the life of me I cannot remember where I was when the person mentioned this technique.

The idea is to video record yourself conducting a lesson regarding a standard that you really want the kids to get. Record the lesson keeping it under seven minutes, as though you were speaking one-on-one with the student. At the beginning of the video, clearly state your objective and what you expect the student to not only learn but to do after you finish the video lesson.

Show on screen the standard upon which you’re basing the lesson. Show the standard in writing the way the state has written it and then paraphrase the standard and objective in everyday language. Use charts and graphs to clearly make your points. When you come to an important word, stop and repeat the word, and then show the word on the screen with the definition beside it. Once you have finished the lesson, do a summary of the important parts of the lesson. Use chart paper of some sort as a part of your summary. This will allow you to go step-by-step through the summary.

Giving the lesson and then summarizing the lesson is important. However, the next part of the lesson is the most critical. Give at least one question regarding the lesson you just taught. Instruct the student to turn off the video and work out the problem. When they finish, they are to turn the video back on. When they turn the video back on, welcome them back and explain what the correct answer should be.  Whether you teach science, math, language arts, history or whatever subject, the most important thing is to walk them through the process by which you got the correct answer. Finally—and this part is very important too—ask the student to write down at least two questions or observations to turn into you the next day about the problem that you and they just when over. Thank them for their time and tell them you will see them next class.

Benefits of Video Lessons

I realize that for those school districts that offer virtual studies this may be similar to how some of those classes are conducted. However, I’ve not seen this kind of learning tool being used for students not registered for virtual classes. Video lessons are an additional way to review important information.

You can, in effect, create a YouTube channel with your top lessons and explanations on it. There are many reasons I’m extremely excited about the possibilities video lessons offer because they allow students to:

Replay parts of the lesson. First, many students, teachers, and parents already use YouTube to find the answers to almost every problem they face. This activity will give struggling and slow learners the opportunity to replay important parts of your lesson over and over again until they get it.

Get parental guidance for emphasis. A parent can sit down with the child and watch the lesson with them and have a better chance to help the student understand the process because they’re hearing it along with the child. It will give the parent the opportunity to stop the video at various stages and stress particular points that they see the child overlooking. As time passes, if a student wants to review difficult assignments, they always have a video post to go back to.

Not miss out just because they were absent. Consider the advantages of having a video post of the 10 or 15 most difficult standards available on your webpage or YouTube channel all year. If a child is absent for an extended period, she or he could watch the video and see at least the most important information delivered with the focus you want the student to have.  This would also be helpful for studying for semester exams and end-of-year state exams.

Have a greater access to a range of materials. Now imagine if your colleagues, who teach the same subject as you, posted their own version of these most difficult standards also. Think of the library of materials available to students and parents that would help them master material at home.

By working with other teachers who teach the same subject or grade level the workload could be divided up so that there could be videos on more of the standards. Imagine also, what a help these videos would be if you live in an area where they are many school closings throughout the year!

Have You Used Videos in Your Classroom?

Have you ever made a video to teach students or know of a colleague that puts this idea into practice? I would love feedback from any of you out there who may already be using this idea, as well as feedback from all others. Best of luck and enjoy this great strategy!

Strategies for State Testing Part Two: Providing Incentives

Strategies for State Testing Part Two: Providing Incentives

One of the most difficult things to do in teaching is getting low-achieving students and struggling learners motivated to take state tests. Often, these groups of students don’t care about the test or the score they earn.

Some states require that students pass the test in order to advance to the next grade, but most states don’t offer motivation for doing so. How then can you get your students interested in doing well on the end-of-year state test?

The Case for Incentives

I’ve found that offering incentives is a great way to get students to care about how well they do. I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t offer tangible, concrete incentives for student performance on state tests. That argument has some merit but it’s not realistic or practical.

Incentives are offered for everything in this world. Many business professionals make excellent salaries and then receive large bonuses at the end of the year.  Multi-millionaire athletes have incentives in their contracts because incentives work.

Until students are able to be intrinsically motivated themselves, I see no reason to let them fail to do their best on these examinations.  These tests prepare them for future examinations that will determine the type of life they’ll be able to have.

Appropriate Use of Incentives

Before I give you some examples of incentives that I’ve seen work for students at all levels, I’d like to discuss for what incentives should be given. The following are just a few examples that I’ve personally seen work very well.

Working through the entire test. In the schools I’ve worked with, incentives are given for actions that will help students do well during tests. For instance, give incentives, prizes or the opportunity to win a prize to students that work the entire test time.

One of the biggest enemies of doing well on a test is that students put their head down and go to sleep 15, 20 or 30 minutes into testing. Most of the students will have no chance of doing well when they sleep through the test. Therefore, give an incentive to those students who work through the entire test.

Using mnemonics they’ve learned. Consider giving incentives for using the mnemonics that were taught throughout the year. It’s unfortunate, but often students don’t utilize the tools teachers give them that will help them on standardized tests.

During the year, require students to write out the mnemonics on scratch paper or wherever allowed so that it’ll be automatic for them to do so during state testing. It is critical that students use all legitimate tools at their disposal.

Writing down strategies. Another incentive-worthy behavior is having students write out three main testing strategies they should use during the test. If they have those three strategies written in front of them, there’s a better chance that they will actually use them. An example of such a strategy would be to read the entire set of answers before selecting one.

Other behaviors to reward. There are other important things to give incentives for, such as being present every day for testing review, turning in all makeup work that relates to testing, and any other behaviors that each teacher designates as important for their students.

Ensuring Incentives Are Age-Appropriate

When considering giving incentives, the most important thing is to make sure that they are age-appropriate and things that students would go the extra mile for. The best way to determine what students will work for is to ask the students directly. Put it out in front of the whole class. Ask the question, “What types of things would you like as incentives?”

When dealing with high school students, there are many good options. Examples would be free tickets to dances, sporting events such as home football games, home basketball games, the prom, free parking spaces, etc. Examples of incentives that could be donated by members of the community are gas coupons, tickets to a professional game, tickets to a concert, etc.

At every grade level, consider getting the PTA involved to donate money or items. Items such an as PlayStations, bicycles, skateboards, video games that have been vetted, toys, computers, savings bonds, and grocery store coupons are all great incentives that can be donated to the school and used to get students excited for standardized testing.

Have You Used Incentives for Your Students?

I’ve found that incentivizing state testing is one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure that all of the hard work done during the year doesn’t go to waste because the students have no motivation to do well.

By using age-appropriate incentives for your students during state testing time, you can motivate and encourage them to do well on the tests. When education is the groundwork for their success in life, teachers can’t afford not to incentivize their students!

Getting Your Students Ready Now for the State Test: Part One

Getting Your Students Ready Now for the State Test:  Part One

I have to tell you, this is my favorite time of year. This is the time of year when you start getting students ready to take the end-of-year assessment. I am so excited, and forgive me, but I love it.

I love it because I know so many students have used the strategies I’m about to discuss to help them excel. I love it because so many teachers have been able to see the fruits of their labors by using these strategies when teaching their students.

I designed these strategies because I sympathize with teachers who spend the entire year teaching all to have the students be unable to demonstrate their knowledge on the end-of-year assessment.

I’m fired up today to give you the following suggestions regarding testing to prepare your students and ensure the knowledge they gain in your classroom during the year can be demonstrated on state tests!

Use Regular Tests as a Model for the State Tests: The ABC’s of Testing

First, realize that it’s critical to use your regular weekly or bi-weekly assessments as practice for the state test at the end of the year. It’s something I hope you did all year, but if you didn’t, now is the perfect time to double down on what you want the kids to do while they take that test.

Immediately instruct every student to write three critical strategies in the margin of the test or on scratch paper they can use while taking the test. I like to call these three strategies the ABC’s of testing.

A might be, always take my time.

B might be, be sure to circle keywords in the questions before answering them.

C stands for carefully check and double check all answers before turning in the test.

You can make your own strategies based on the mistakes you see your students make when taking an assessment. This strategy is critical and has to be done on every test you give until the end of the year. Practice helps strategies such as these become automatic.

You want these methods to be ingrained in your students so that on test day they don’t panic but do what comes naturally, which is writing down the strategies and using them.

Watch the Clock: Prepare Students by Conducting Longer Tests

The second important suggestion I would like to give is to make sure your tests and quizzes—especially your regular assessments—are longer than usual.

But why?

Lack of endurance during testing is one of the most common issues teachers see from students during the end-of-year test. Now is the perfect time to make sure your students are able to sit for long time blocks so they’re accustomed to doing this on state test days. You cannot give 20-minute tests all year and think students can sit for an hour or an hour and a half on state test day without becoming exhausted.

Add more questions to your weekly or bi-weekly assessments. Add more open-ended questions to these assignments. Give extra credit questions at the end. Whatever you do, make sure that the students are sitting for longer periods of time now and it will pay dividends at the end of the year on your state tests.

Utilize Questions That Mimic Those on the State Test

My final suggestion in this part of the testing strategies series involves preparing your students for the rigor of state assessments.

Immediately begin using as many released state test type questions and items as you can with your students in every capacity possible. These items contain the same rigor, nomenclature, and structure your students will see on the state test.

You don’t want to teach and test one way all year and have the questions on the state assessment look completely different at the end of the year. That’s not fair to your students and it’s definitely not fair to you. I recommend using these items, as long as they aren’t copyrighted, on your quizzes.

I especially urge you to use as many of these types of items on your weekly and bi-weekly assessments as possible. During this time of the year, 80 to 90 percent of your questions should be released state test type questions.

Like many educators, I was also a coach. Every coach knows you make practice more difficult than the game. You want your students to walk out of the test on test day saying that your assessments were more difficult than what they took on state test day. Consistently and repeatedly using released state test type items will help you accomplish this.

Encouragement for Teachers

I want to leave you with these words of encouragement.

When you prepare students for the challenge of the state test, they will perform better.

If you use the strategies I’ve outlined here and you use them consistently, you will give your students a better opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they’ve learned throughout the year.

If you peruse my website, you will see many examples of schools that made tremendous gains in their test scores. These schools used many of my strategies including those mentioned in this article.

Start by implementing the strategies discussed here and see the results. Teachers—you can do this!

Staying Motivated When Test Scores in the School are Down

Staying Motivated When Test Scores in the School are Down

There’s so much emphasis on test scores that many teachers are constantly depressed and to be honest, many are getting out of the field. However, those of us who love our profession and our students don’t see that as an option.

So how can we keep our heads up when we know we’re teaching and doing the best we can? My first suggestion for you is to look for other indicators of success rather than just a child’s test score.

For instance, look at the effort your students give. If you’re getting your students to try their best, isn’t this a skill that will serve them well in life? Look at whether or not they enjoy learning and participating in class. Won’t this enthusiasm and engagement help them greatly in life? Wanting to learn for learning’s sake is something that helps students who may start out behind be able to catch up and eventually even surpass many others.

I believe there’s a place for testing but there’s little doubt that it has become the focus in too many places, even above learning. Therefore, I ask you to actually sit down along with some of your colleagues in the building and develop anywhere between 5-10 indicators of success besides test scores. For instance, consider how many books they read as being an important indicator of future success. Somewhere down the road, the experiences they encounter in those books can be life-changing and that doesn’t always show up in a test score.

An indicator of success that’s often overlooked in so-called low-performing schools is social awareness or social aptitude. For example, are your students interested in the well-being of others? Do they help collect food for the less fortunate or take part in other social campaigns? How many of them will someday give back to the community because of the types of things you taught them as a teacher or your school did as a community project? Don’t get down because the test scores aren’t as high as you would like. Work on test scores, definitely, but consider the whole child when determining her or his level of success.

You can stay motivated as an educator even when test scores aren’t optimal. Remember, there’s more than one indicator of success. By focusing on the big picture, you can stay motivated to continue to enhance the lives of your students!

How a Teacher Can Stay Motivated When There are Several Students Driving You Crazy in the Class

How a Teacher Can Stay Motivated When There are Several Students Driving You Crazy in the Class

There are times when a teacher loves a class overall but there may be one or two students who just seem to want to cause chaos. This can be demoralizing when it goes on day after day.

My first suggestion is to not let a few students do this to you. As you approach your time with the class, think about all of the kids in the class that you really can’t wait to see and work with. Think about how great working with these children is going to be and have plans to work with them immediately. 

Once class begins, focus on your well-behaved students first. It’s also important to anticipate some of the ways the few students may try to be disruptive, this way you aren’t surprised. Don’t let these students see that you’re bothered by what they’re doing to the point you can’t do what you need to do.

When the few students begin to act out, have it in your mind that you’re going to be direct yet calm when dealing with them. Always frame things to the student in terms such as, “You are so much better than the way you are acting now”, or, “I have a hard time believing that you really are the kind of person who would do the kinds of things you are doing”.

Next, direct them right back to the subject material at hand. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to not spend most of your energy and attention on these students when they are being disruptive. When the students start to come around, then spend more time with them to show them that this is the proper way to get your attention. It is a delicate dance, but you can do it!

Be careful that when you discipline the students, you do it with a reluctant tone. You want those students to know that whatever it is you have to do, you are not happy about doing it because it takes away from their academic time. It also shows that you are not a vindictive person and that their behavior is not the focus of your attention. Let them see that to be the center of your attention, they just need to act right and you will welcome them into your good graces.

Finally, although it’s difficult, do your best to keep a smile on your face at all times or at least as much as possible in front of the class. There’s an old saying, “Never let them see you sweat”. If what they’re trying is not working, it’s not likely that they will continue the behavior forever. There’s a song that says “just keep smiling” and in the children’s film, Finding Nemo, Dori told Nemo’s dad to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” So keep your head up and put a smile on your face when you deal with those students and just keep swimming!

How Teachers Can Stay Motivated During Difficult Times

How Teachers Can Stay Motivated During Difficult Times

It’s often difficult to do your best work and stay motivated with so many things pulling at you every day. However, you can make it through challenging times and inspire your class to love learning!

The first thing to do during difficult times is to stay focused on why you became a teacher in the first place. When it’s hard to function, think of one thing: your students. Sometimes they may even be the problem. What that tells you, though, is how very badly they need you. Remember that on your worst day on the job, you are still some child’s best hope. Focus on your students.

Another strategy to stay motivated during challenging periods in your life is to stop and take a step back. Think back over another tough time you went through and how you were able to persevere. In other words, keep in mind the old saying that trouble don’t last always.

As you think back to a prior time, remember and think about a success you were able to achieve against the odds. During tough times, take a step back and reflect on the good you have already done. Let it inspire you to continue doing good even if things feel difficult right now.

Another strategy you can try when life feels overwhelming is to get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, just to get out and walk even if it’s just around the building or inside the building. A little exercise every day seems to help keep negative thoughts away. Even a short daily walk during tough times can change your whole outlook.

A final method for dealing with tough times is to have outside interests. In other words, don’t forget that you need to have balance in your life. When one area gets out of balance, it can throw your whole outlook off. Use your hobbies such as biking, gardening, art, reading a good book, or just enjoying chocolate to help bring you back to where you need to be. During difficult times stay balanced!

As a teacher, putting your best foot forward every day can be a challenge in itself. When you’re dealing with other things in your life, achieving and sustaining a balance through self care and reflection can help you be your best not just for you, but for your students as well. You got this!

Motivating Unmotivated Students: Part Two

Motivating Unmotivated Students: Part Two

Many teachers struggle with feeling as though their students just aren’t motivated. The advice “Don’t wait on a blessing, be one” is a perfect way to approach students who seem unmotivated.

Besides making excitement a part of your lesson plans as we discussed in Part One, another element of an inspiring lesson plan is engagement.

By engagement, I mean having the students constantly involved in doing something. I recommend that 80% of the lesson be comprised of the students actively doing something. The first 10% or less of the lesson involves you getting the students started and the last 10% involves you closing out the lesson. The remainder of the time, your role as teacher should be to circulate, guide, and encourage.

There are numerous ways to keep students engaged during that 80% time block. First, you can have them work in groups of two and create a product that they share with the class or turn in to you for a grade. Also, consider occasionally having students work in groups of three or four to get more done but give them roles so that everyone has to do their share. Having students do group work is a tremendous way to ensure that there is hands-on learning. Students are more likely to be excited and engaged when they’re involved in the lesson.

One overlooked method of getting students excited through engagement is through a strategy known as call and response. Call and response is an effective method in getting students engaged and excited because they get to show what they know. For those that may not be familiar with this strategy, the teacher will ask questions frequently as he or she presents information to make sure students are engaged and listening. The class answers as a whole. This way, if a student doesn’t know the answer, then they’re not embarrassed but get the answer quickly. This method also helps to keep the presentation from being boring or monotonous.

Getting your class excited about your lesson and engaged in the learning process are excellent methods for helping your students to learn and achieve their best. As a teacher, you play an instrumental role in getting students fired up about learning. You can do this!