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.

Philip McIntoshOctober 1, 2013

The quality and skill of the teacher is one of the most important factors (if not the most important) influencing the success of any learning environment. But you can stand at the front of a classroom and teach until you are blue in the face, and it doesn't guarantee that any learning actually happens. So what separates successful teachers from less successful ones? Anyone will tell you that it's relationships. That's why it is critical to establish and maintain positive relationships with students throughout the school year. It's also not a bad idea to get some learning to happen while you're at it.

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Joshua BlockOctober 1, 2013

Over the summer, I offered to help some friends convert their dining room light fixture into a ceiling fan. Once the electricity was off, the old fixture was down, and I'd opened the large cardboard box, my goal was clear and pressing. This needed to be accomplished before people began to arrive for the five-year-old's birthday party that would begin in two hours. There was no need to remind myself to focus or pay attention.

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Ben JohnsonSeptember 25, 2013

Squirrels. That is what they remind me of. We were all that age once and we were all just like squirrels! Have you ever watched a squirrel? Zoom, freeze for two seconds, flick tail, and repeat. The trick for being a successful middle school teacher is holding their attention for more than just those few seconds. Believing that that is possible requires a huge leap of faith and trust.

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Bob LenzSeptember 20, 2013

Last spring, 450 elementary students in San Rafael, Calif., turned their classroom lessons into a school-wide celebration of learning in the first-ever Classroom Connections Festival. Students performed dances, made music, and displayed works of art that were aligned with their grade-level curriculum, exploring subjects from animal behavior and math facts to American history and electromagnetism.

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Todd FinleySeptember 6, 2013

Because of pressure to teach bell-to-bell -- the pedagogical equivalent of force-feeding geese to make foie gras -- many classrooms now start with bell work, short exercises that students complete while the instructor attends to attendance and other administrative chores. Journal prompts and concept questions can focus students on nutritious academic content and initiate a positive tempo for the next 90 minutes of class.

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Betty RaySeptember 3, 2013

See how this 9th-grade English teacher connects with his students, earns their trust, and then invites them to contemplate their future with -- or without -- reading skills.

  • At the beginning, watch how he makes a connection with each student as they enter the classroom.
  • At 6:54 he gets students to talk about their previous jobs, and the work they want to do.

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Rebecca AlberAugust 30, 2013

Ah, listening, the neglected literacy skill. I know when I was a high school English teacher this was not necessarily a primary focus; I was too busy honing the more measurable literacy skills -- reading, writing, and speaking. But when we think about career and college readiness, listening skills are just as important.

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Matt DavisAugust 29, 2013

How can teachers effectively engage with students from diverse backgrounds? It's a question many teachers face at the beginning of the school year, and of course there isn't one prescribed solution.

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Maurice EliasAugust 26, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." Educators realize that this is true of classrooms and schools. So, to begin this school year, take some time to build your students as a caring community of learners and as a problem-solving team. You can do this grade-level wide, in individual classrooms or advisories, or for the greatest benefit, school wide. It's time well spent.

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Judy JesterAugust 15, 2013

I sell literacy. I do. If I don't sell kids on wanting to learn to read and write as well as they can, they won't. Sometimes it's an especially hard sell for kids in middle school, both for those who are competent in these areas but choose to be illiterate, and for those who have always struggled with these skills. You've heard the old axiom, "What you plant in September, you reap in June," so it's crucial to set the right tone from the start. Here's what I do.

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