# Blogs on Student Engagement

### Student Engagement

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#### Get advice from educators on how to build a positive climate for learning, improve student curiosity, and enhance classroom collaboration.

José VilsonMarch 13, 2014

A few years ago, Indira Gil, friend and math educator in Miami, Forida, asked me the following:

"Why do we call pi irrational when it's clearly the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter?"

Of course, I agreed. Such a pithy thought has swum around my ear for as long as it has because we've come to no resolution on it. For decades, we were always told to truncate pi to 3.14 or 22/7. The geeks might get a few digits deeper (3.1415926535. . .), but generally, this was a given fact and, like many things math, we didn't have to wonder because all the wondering had been done for us.

Years later, I rebuke all of this.

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Elena AguilarMarch 12, 2014

Harriet Tubman Day was this week, March 10, and it's the date that marks her death in 1913. Although it is speculated that Tubman was born in the early 1820s, neither her birth day nor birth year are known since the births of slaves were not recorded. This is a time we can reflect on a fascinating and fierce woman, on different styles of leadership, on a kind of resilience that is hard to imagine and deeply inspiring, and on the telling of stories -- whose histories do we know? Whose get told?

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Gregor NovakMarch 6, 2014

Suppose you are teaching an introductory biology course and your next lesson deals with genetics. You would like to prepare your students for the upcoming class by asking them to think about the topic. You assign some reading and this scenario to pique their interest:

Allison is driving with her parents when they get in a serious car accident. At the emergency room, the doctor tells Allison that her mother is fine, but her father Bob has lost a lot of blood and will need a blood transfusion. Allison volunteers to donate blood, and you tell her that her blood type is AB. Bob is type O.
a) Can Allison donate blood to Bob? Why or why not?
b) Allison, who is a biology student, begins to wonder if she is adopted. What would you tell her and why?
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Joshua BlockMarch 6, 2014

The wonderful poet Naomi Shihab Nye first introduced me to William Stafford's idea that no one becomes a poet. She says that we are all born poets, and it's just that some of us choose to keep up the habit.

At times, all of us inevitably get stuck viewing ourselves in static and limiting ways. When I tell students that we will be studying poetry there are always some students who mutter, "I can't write poems."

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Sarah Wike LoyolaMarch 5, 2014

I am embarrassed -- no, actually I would go as far as to say horrified -- that I spent ten years of my career teaching students about the Spanish language. I actually felt proud when they could fill out grammar worksheets with precision. Now, you may be thinking that, as a Spanish teacher, this is my job, but since my enlightenment, I understand that it decidedly is not. I am now certain that teaching them to communicate well in the language is my job. Honestly, who cares whether students can conjugate verbs correctly if they can't tell someone what they need? Getting to this point has required a colossal teaching philosophy transformation, but I've never been more proud of the work that I'm doing.

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Matt DavisMarch 3, 2014

Happy 3.14159265358979323846264 Day! That's right, Pi Day is coming on 3/14, and the annual celebration offers a great opportunity for students to explore Pi! (It's also Albert Einstein's birthday. There are plenty of wonderful facts in this online Einstein biography.) Of course, there are plenty of great teaching resources online to help your class celebrate Pi Day, and we here at Edutopia thought we'd help.

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Rebecca AlberFebruary 28, 2014

There's a lot that I like about the Common Core standards. For one, as a former high school English teacher, I'm thrilled by the literacy standards for secondary math, science, and social studies. I also think the standards for speaking, writing, listening and reading build nicely from kinder to twelfth grade, creating a space for teachers to talk and plan together across grade levels.

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Larry FerlazzoFebruary 27, 2014

Editor's Note: This blog was co-authored by Katie Hull Sypnieski. Portions of this post are excerpted from their book, The ESL/ELL Teacher's Survival Guide: Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools, and Activities for Teaching English-Language Learners of All Levels.

Helping English-language learners develop proficiency in academic language has always been a priority for K-12 educators, and its importance has only been heightened with the advent of the Common Core. To better understand academic language, let's examine the distinction between two terms introduced by Jim Cummins, basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP), that have impacted both policy and practices in second-language education:

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Ben JohnsonFebruary 26, 2014

Have I let "instructional weeds" infest my classroom?

I went out into my backyard today and was astounded about its condition. The hibernating Bermuda grass was yellow-brown as it should have been, but salt-and-peppered throughout the yard were bright green dandelions with the "I dare you to stop me" fluffy white seed flowers that had not been there in the fall.

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Nicholas ProvenzanoFebruary 24, 2014

Too often, I've heard teachers talk about how helpless they feel when it comes to reaching out to their students. The days of being the person whose job it is to exclusively provide students with an education -- and nothing more -- are long over. Honestly, some will say those days never existed. I've never wavered in my belief that teachers are much more than people passing out curriculum. For some students, school is the best part of their day because it offers an escape from their life at home. As teachers, it's important for us to understand that there is so much more to students than the life they lead in class, and it is important to show interest in a student outside of the day's homework. Here are three simple things a teacher can do to connect with students and let them know there is more to school than just a report card.

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