6 Simple Ways to Strengthen Student Engagement

Posted on Thu, Jul 03, 2014 @ 09:07 AM

student engagement
Teaching entails many things, but at its core, teaching is about relationships. Relationships breathe life into a curriculum that would otherwise be static; relationships also create a safe space for open discourse, they encourage exploration, confidence and respect. Most of us believe this and while we do our best to nurture strong relationships with students, we often feel them getting lost in the hum of daily activity and the increasing demands of our profession. Thanks to Joan Young’s recently published book, Encouragement in the Classroom, we’ve got six simple ways you can strengthen your relationships with students.

6 Simple Ways to Strengthen Student Engagement                                                    

Take a mindful walk
Mindfulness exercises have roots in Eastern religion, but you certainly don’t have to get into the lotus position, say “OM,” or adopt—or give up—a belief system to be mindful. All you and your students need to have is a willingness to stop and take notice of where you are—and have a little fun while doing it.

You can be mindful simply by taking a walk. In Young’s fourth grade class, she often takes students outside for a mindful walk just before math class. Students walk silently and observe with their senses: How does it feel outside? What do they see in the school environment that they have never noticed before?

As a playful variation, you might try a game of “Over, Under, Around, and Through.” In this game, the teacher decides whether students go over, under, around, or through imaginary or real objects. Here’s an example:  Over a sea of sticky peanut butter, under a cherry tree, around an ice cream cone, or through a sea of Jell-O.

Why do this? Because it helps students prepare for tasks that require intense focus. It can also help them consolidate their learning after such tasks.

Teach the art of intention
Another way to strengthen student engagement is to begin every class with a “daily intention.” Intentions can be as simple as “Be curious” or “Breathe deeply.” Write these phrases on the board and model the skill; students can set an intention each day as well. Focus on process, not an end goal.

Young notes that even on days when she forgets to write an intention on the board, her students remind her. Why? Because they enjoy being a part of the process and seeing that their teacher shares their struggles to be patient, pay attention, or deal with stress.

Take a deep breath in the middle of a chaotic moment
We may spend hours planning. We may have prepared for every conceivable speed bump, but as all teachers know, learning can be a messy process.  During times when disruption requires your immediate attention, call on a predetermined student; s/he will lead the class in a simple deep breaking exercise. Teaching students to concentrate on the breath as a means of grounding or regrouping can be powerful, especially when it is done routinely.

Start the day with a warm greeting
Think of yourself as a pilot. It’s your job to help students reach their destination and keep them safe through the turbulence. But it’s also your job to make them feel appreciated. Greet your students every day—show them that you’re ready to and eager to explore a day of learning with them. Help them to feel that they are in a safe, fun environment.

For example, say “hello, how are you?” to every student. If someone was absent the day before, say, “Hi, Johnny. I’m glad to have you back. We missed having you yesterday. I like that tie, I like that new haircut…” It won’t take long for you to notice how this simple gesture impacts your relationship with students.

Use playful rituals
This is especially useful with younger students. In her book, Young explains that she has a stuffed animal named Mr. Monkey. Every day, she places him in a different position or place in the classroom. On the morning after Halloween or the Super Bowl, for example, Mr. Monkey might be hanging upside down from the rocking chair, suggesting that he got a bit overexcited and out of control over the weekend. Other times, Mr. Monkey will lead the class in a song and come around to give students hugs. These routines provide a predictable, positive start to the day as well as a bit of a novelty.

Legitimize misbehavior: Turn it into a learning game
Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But with a little creativity, we can often turn “misbehavior” into a lesson.

In her book, Young reflects on a problem she had with her math students who continually engaged in a fad of flipping their erasers on their individual dry-eraser boards. Although this was fun for them, it was incredibly distracting to her and other students.

To refocus students, she created an opportunity for them to flip their erasers to their hearts’ content: For a lesson on measurement and estimating distances, Young set up an activity that had students using dry erase boards to propel the erasers across the room, marking their landing spots with masking tape, and then estimating distances. Pretty cool, huh?

Photo credit: Gates Foundation / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)



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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders, student engagement

5 Ways to Help Students Motivate Themselves

Posted on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

Student Motivation“I just wish my students cared more.” Most teachers—first-year and veterans alike—have said or at least felt like this at some point. We work hard to motivate our students, but how do we help them motivate themselves? We’ve been reading Larry Ferlazzo’s book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges, and thought we’d share five tips to help your students develop their intrinsic motivation.

Encourage students to take risks
Most of us don’t particularly enjoy making mistakes—especially in a public setting. As a result, we often avoid taking on new challenges. So how do we encourage students to stretch themselves and take risks?

According to Ferlazzo, we can start by skipping general praise. Statements like “Jane, you’re so smart” seem innocuous, even helpful, but in reality, they focus our students’ attention on maintaining their image, not on pushing new boundaries. In lieu of general praise, praise specific actions. Saying things like, “You worked really hard today” or “Your topic sentence communicates the main idea of your paragraph very nicely” can, as Ferlazzo suggests, “make students feel that they are more in control of their success, and that their doing well is less dependent on their ‘natural intelligence.’"

Build Relationships
Research continues to find a link between positive teacher-student relationships and academic success. There are many ways we can nurture more meaningful relationships with students, but perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves. Ferlazzo suggests that we take a step back and consider how we think about and speak to our students. 

Using negative language to describe challenging behavior often distorts the way we see it. If we label students who seem unmotivated or disengaged as “stubborn” or “lazy,” then our reaction to these students will be, more often than not, negative. However, if we view that same student as “determined” or “persistent,” we will be more likely to convey respect.

Use Cooperative Learning
Lectures are, by their very nature, passive activities. Sure, students may jot down notes or pose occasional questions, but lectures do very little to develop our students’ intrinsic motivation. While Ferlazzo is not suggesting that we ditch lectures altogether, he would encourage us to keep them to a minimum. Instead of delivering lectures, find ways to incorporate cooperative learning into lessons. These can be as basic as "think-pair-share" or as ambitious as problem and project-based learning.

Set Specific Expectations
Very often what looks like student resistance is actually confusion about our vague requests. Consider the difference between the following:

  • “Will you try harder to pay attention in class?”
  • “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”

You’ll notice how the former not only lacks specific instructions, but does not give the student a clear picture of what you expect from him or her. Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment. 

Creating Opportunities for Students to Help Make Decisions
Most of us are motivated when we feel we have control over our environment. Inviting students to have a voice in classroom decisions—where they sit, what day a test takes place, in what order units are studied, or even where a plant should be placed in the classroom—can help them develop that greater sense of control.

A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders, student engagement, Extrinsic Motivation

The Key to Student Success: nurturing a growth mindset

Posted on Thu, Mar 07, 2013 @ 15:03 PM

student successIn his book Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success, Bryan Goodwin describes a now famous 1965 study conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson:

A group of teachers were told that some of the students in their classrooms had been identified by a special Harvard test as being “gifted”—or in their words, “On the brink of rapid intellectual and academic development.”

What the teachers didn’t know was that 1) there was no test and 2) these “gifted” students were the results of a random selection. When the experiment concluded, Rosenthal and Jacobson found that many of these students who had been randomly labeled “gifted” were actually demonstrating higher IQs than their peers. What this seems to suggest is that teachers’ expectations do impact student success.

Those skeptical of Rosenthal’s and Jacobson’s findings will learn that a 2009 study by John Hattie echoed their conclusions:

Teacher expectations do impact student achievement. How much? We don’t know. What we do know is that research shows that there are effective and ineffective ways of motivating our students.

We’ve all encountered students who, no matter what we do, refuse to apply themselves. We know that they’re perfectly capable of meeting (and exceeding) our expectations, so we pull them aside and say, “Joe, I know you’re smart and you can do well. All you have to do is apply yourself.”

When we do this, certainly our heart is in the right place, but according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, telling students they are smart actually lowers their motivation and achievement.

During a study, Dweck and her colleagues divided students into two groups; each was treated differently:

  • One group was praised for their ability and would hear things like, “Wow. You got eight right; you must be really smart.”
  • The other group heard things like, “Wow. You got eight right; you must have worked really hard.”

At the conclusion of the study, Dweck found that the students who were continually praised developed a “fixed-mindset” and began to believe that their intelligence was innate. As a result, they began to fear failure and thus avoided challenging tasks.

However, 90 percent of the students in the second group took on more challenging tasks and found they actually enjoyed the work.

Here are a few of Bryan Goodwin’s Dos and Don’ts for helping your students develop a growth mindset:

  • Say this (growth mindset) . . . "Your practice is really paying off. You're getting your math facts down."
  • Not this (fixed mindset) . . . "Wow, that was quick! You blazed right through those problems! You’re a math whiz."
  • Say this (growth mindset) . . . "You seem frustrated and tired right now. That means your brain is working hard. We’ll keep at it, and I know you’re going to get it."
  • Not this (fixed mindset) . . . "Not everyone is a natural at this. Let’s do a few more problems and then move on to something you’re better at."
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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, student engagement, classroom management, student success, critical thinking

Education Reform? How about Relationship Reform?

Posted on Thu, Feb 07, 2013 @ 15:02 PM

education reformKen Chenault, CEO for American Express, once said, “Most companies maintain their office copiers better than they build the capabilities of their people, especially the ones who are supposed to be future leaders.” This is something all educational leaders aspiring to greatness should take to heart.

We hear an awful lot about education reform. We’re no stranger to the discourses about high-stakes testing and reaching every student. We’ve heard the “3 R’s” (“Rigor, Relevance and Relationships”) and probably bandied them around ourselves. But do we have it all backwards? Shouldn’t it be more like, “Relationships, Relevance and Rigor?”

In the political hubbub, it seems that we may have forgotten about nurturing the capabilities of our students and teachers by taking the time to establish real and meaningful relationships with them. There are an infinite number of ways to make this happen, but here are five to get you started.   

Use the gradual release of responsibility model with your teachers
You spent time in the classroom. You didn’t simply stand before your students, tell them how to do something, and then watch them blossom before your eyes, did you? Very likely, you practiced some variation on what Frey and Fisher have described as the “gradual release of responsibility model.”

You modeled the activity; then you offered guided instruction by posing questions, facilitating discussion and collaborating with your students.  When they were ready, you had them work in pairs and when they finally mastered the activity, they put it into practice and flew on their own.

Your faculty and staff are no different. You can tell them how to respond to student work. You can talk about classroom organization and describe mentorship, but have you gone through the gradual release process that you’d use with your students?

Stop by a different classroom every morning
We’ve talked about 5-minute walkthoughs as an alternative to traditional teacher evaluations. But when was the last time you stopped by a random classroom just to reconnect with teachers and students? Before you do this, you may want to arrange it with teachers to make sure that you’re not interrupting a test or presentation. You’ll also want to let them know your intentions: You’re not evaluating; your visit isn’t a guise for something punitive. You simply want to reconnect for five measly minutes.

Substantiate your philosophies
If you’re passionate about your school’s vision of success, you should shout it from the rooftops. But don’t expect everyone to get on board until you’ve substantiated your initiatives with scholarship. Generally speaking, people are resistant to change; they don’t like disruptions and they are skeptical of new ways of doing things.

If you want to win their hearts, prove to them that your way is not simply “best practice” because you happen to like it. No, it’s best practice because scholarly research and data say so.

Get out of the office
It’s easy to find yourself cloistered up in your office for hours (maybe even days) at a time, but you’ll find that parent, student and teacher concerns become much more tangible when you see them for yourself. Setting up shop in a “satellite office” is one of the best ways to get out of the office, but without having to compromise the work you do in your home base.

Chances are that you spend a significant amount of time on your computer. Why not head over to the computer lab or grab your laptop and work at one of the tables in the library. This is a great way to engage with students and other faculty that you don’t get to see as often as you should. It’s also the best way for you to get an in-the-trenches perspective on the school culture.

Greet your students every morning in person
You probably arrive well before the students, but where are you when they start to trickle in every morning? You have your hands full, but being a visible and approachable leader is as important as the duties that call from your office.

When it’s cold outside, stand in the lobby of the front entrance to the school and greet each student with a hello or a handshake. When it’s warm, stand outside and do the same. You’ll be surprised when students start approaching you on their own accord simply to say hello or chat.


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Topics: student engagement, Becoming an effective principal, Developing Teachers, education reform

5 Tips to Make Your Collaborative Learning Plans Effective

Posted on Tue, Jan 08, 2013 @ 15:01 PM

Collaborative learningAs psychologists and behavioral experts discover more about the various learning modalities and "how students learn," more and more schools are starting to use collaborative learning platforms as a part of their day-to-day classroom routine.

A well-organized collaborative learning process allows students to work together, using each other’s' strengths to overcome collective weaknesses. Ideally, students are then able to take ownership of their learning experience and being teaching one another. But there’s a fine line between successful learning groups and classroom-wide chaos. We believe that creating an effective, collaborative learning environment takes planning, so here are 5 tips to help you keep the chaos at bay!

5 Tips to Make Your Collaborative Learning Plans Effective

    1. Classroom Setup. Students learn best when their environment is comfortable, but still structured and organized. If you have a traditional classroom set up with rows of desks, any attempt at group work will end up in a mess of student clusters on the floor, on top of desks, and excessive wandering.

      Ideally, desks should be set up in clusters so students have a "real" place to sit, are facing each other, and can easily communicate. You will also be able to tell which groups are on track and which aren't. If you can get your hand on round or oval tables, those work too.

        2. Process-oriented learning. Try to create assignments where the group learning process is the primary focus and the “right” answers are either secondary or possibly even irrelevant.Students are less apt to contribute or share if they feel at risk for looking incompetent.

          Use these opportunities for students to work on discussion, analysis, process, and/or correlation skills—activities where they learn to develop deeper thinking/learning skills without attachment to the outcome.

            3. Everybody is accountable. One reason students learn to loathe group learning assignments is because one student always feels like s/he does all the work. And then there’s the classic case of the one student who didn't do anything at all but still gets credit. Effective collaborative learning happens when everyone is accountable somehow. You can create group tests which are harder than traditional tests so students are forced to work together to achieve a collective finished product. Circulating around the room will allow you to pay attention to who isn't participating and then encourage him/her to begin contributing.  Allowing the group to grade each otheris another way to suss out who is working and who isn't.
              4. Peer teaching. We all know that teaching is the best way to thoroughly learn something, so create opportunities which allow students to teach each other. Pair higher-level students with lower-level students, create harder problems or discussions that require group engagement to work through the solutions, or assign chapters to groups of twos or threes and make them teach their lesson on a scheduled date. This allows everyone to be a part of the give-and-take process involved in teaching and learning.
                5. Group selection. You should control the groups and pairs that work together at all times. They don't have to be the same all the time, but in order for students to work well together, there needs to be the right balance of varying skill levels and personalitytypes. By assigning the groups, and potentially assigning particular jobs to each member, you will see a marked improvement in the overall collaborative learning process. It can be a good idea to check in with students before class to assess their mood, allow them to vent a little, and get the class into a more settled mindset before beginning the group work. You may want to come up with general rules and guidelines for how groups should communicate/behave.

                  Once you get your collaborative learning groups off and running, they will become a regularly requested element of your classroom design.


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                  Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, student engagement, Online Master's in Educational Leadership, Developing Teachers, collaborative learning

                  Apps They’ll Love: 5 Elementary Math Games

                  Posted on Thu, Nov 01, 2012 @ 09:11 AM

                  There’s no question about it, mathematics is a high-stakes subject—especially when you take into account initiatives like "Race to the Top" and "Educate to Innovate.” But don’t let high stakes deter you from finding new (and fun) ways to inspire your students. In fact, it seems to us that these initiatives actually give us more of a reason help our students find joy in fractions, decimals, and algebraic equations. If you’re looking for some guidance, look no further: We’ve got 5 elementary math games that will help you not only reinforce and enhance your current lesson plans, but also help you reach students through a medium they are comfortable with.

                  Apps They’ll Love: 5 Elementary Math Games

                  Math_BingoMath Bingo ($.99)
                  This app has the blessing of the New York Times and Disney, so they must have done something right. Load it up and you’ll see a bingo board filled with random numbers. Once you start, an equation appears and students must choose answers from the numbers on the board. The object of the game is to get a pattern of five Bingo Bugs in a row by correctly answering addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems. Another cool feature is that students can choose from eight cartoon avatars. A bonus for teachers is that they can save up to 30 of their students’ scores and custom profiles to see how they’re performing.  

                  My Math Flash CardsMy Math Flash Cards (Free)
                  This elementary math game doesn’t have a dazzling interface, but the app makes up for it in user-friendliness. As the title suggests, the app has taken paper flash cards and gone digital with them. There are a few noteworthy features: it’s completely customizable, so it will randomly generate addition, subtraction, multiplication and division flash cards; it will also give helpful hints or focus on a particular math fact. You’ll also find that students enjoy competing with their old scores by setting a timer. An added bonus is that, unlike paper flash cards, the app provides constant feedback and assessment.

                  Rocket MathRocket Math (Free)
                  When your students tire of My Math flash Cards, load up Rocket Math, a math practice session disguised as a game. Students embark on math-based “missions” where they launch a rocket and solve equations while it orbits. Like My Math Flash Cards, the game turns competitive if students want to continue funding their explorations.

                  If your students still need some work on basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, this elementary math game still has them covered. And if they’ve mastered the basics, Rocket Math also covers fractions, square roots and entry-level algebra principles. Need some scratch paper? Think again, Rocket Math’s got one built into it. The free version has a limited amount of levels, but you can upgrade for only a $1 to access all 56 levels.

                  Teaching TableTeaching Table ($2.99)
                  Racking your brain for dynamic lessons? Choose from over 70 of them! Tired of drawing and re-drawing math examples over and over again? Simply drag and drop Teaching Table’s interactive manipulatives—all of which are inspired by real-life teaching situations and vetted by over 200 teachers—to create a lesson in a few short strokes. Manipulatives include fractions, coins, polygons, place value blocks, algebra blocks and text, to name a few. Still not impressed? How about the fact that every lesson has been aligned with Common Core State Standards?

         (Pricing varies)
         isn’t exactly an elementary math game, but it is the only online, on-demand tutoring service that allows students to connect with a tutor from any mobile device. Once students have installed Tutor’s HTML5 classroom, they are free to connect to a live tutor for one-to-one help in math, science, social studies, and English. Pricing is reasonable, and as with many mobile phone company plans, unused minutes roll over into the next month. Additional features include the ability to   

                  • Save and review past one-to-one tutoring sessions
                  • Store essays, assignments, or photos of homework problems in your Mobile Locker
                  • Share items in your Mobile Locker with a tutor
                  • Access thousands of educational resources from the SkillsCenter™ Resource Library

                    Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

                  Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Best Apps for Educators, student engagement, elementary math games

                  5 Interactive Map Generator Apps for Teachers

                  Posted on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 @ 09:09 AM

                  Canada Crayon DrawingArtistically challenged? Tired of looking at hand-drawn maps that barely resemble their topographical subject?

                  Perhaps it’s time to re-energize and refocus your students—and yourself—with Interactive Map Generator Apps for teachers.

                  If you haven't delved into the realms of "Apps for Teachers" there has never been a better time. Infographics are one of the most useful and fun apps for teachers and students. They help to capture the attention of those visual learners and your students will be inspired to up the ante on their own presentations.

                  Several Infographic Generator sites have excellent map generators, allowing you and your students to present accurate, colorful, and data-rich visuals of the places you are studying.

                  5 Interactive Map Generator Apps for Educators

                  1. Build A Map. Put away the ruler and tracing paper because Build A Map is here to spare those of us who are lacking in the artistic know-how of cartographers. This site claims there is no programming or techy talents needed.  With simple clicks and mouse drags, you can put together an educational infographic map to be proud of. They also offer a wealth of access to data, making the work even easier. You can Click Here to peek at some of their examples.

                  2. Flowing Data.  While maps aren't the only thing they do at Flowing Data, they offer some cool versions of map making infographic tools. For example, check out these tutorials.  You can use diffusion-based cartograms to make data-specific map distortions. Or you can create fun neon colored topographic maps. It does cost $25 per year—but at only $2.10 per month, the map making tools are worth it.

                  3. Tableau Public.  This site is extra special because not only does Tableau Public have easy-to-use tools for creating interesting and interactive maps, it also allows you to publish them on the web. What a great idea for student projects, long-distance learning or home school coop situations. For example, Professor Kosara, at UNC, and his students put together this interactive infographic map depicting global climate change for all the world to see. What cumulative project could you and your students create to help educate the world?

                  4. Stat Planet.  We mentioned Stat Planet in our blog, 5 Infographic Generator Apps Every Teacher Should Know About. It was a 1st Prize winner of the World Bank Apps for Development contest for a reason.  It is a very easy interface to use. Like Tableau Public, it also allows you to easily post your work on the web. To see some stunning examples, Click Here.

                  5. Map Maker Interactive.  We will leave you with a most time honored tradition in the realm of stunning global visuals: National Geographic's Map Maker Interactive. This program is very simple but very effective.  There are a variety of maps to use as the foundation. You can use various themes, such as Water Systems or Socio-political systems, to begin tailoring the data you want to communicate visually.

                  Apps for educators offer one more way to bring technology into the classroom and make life easier for you and your students. The more you learn about using infographics in the classroom, the more you will continue to do so.  You will have the attention of students who usually zone out when an adult is talking, and provide a tool for the less-artistically inclined to create presentations they can be proud of.

                  You might be interested in becoming an educational technologist; maybe you want to become a principal and are considering a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Perhaps you are interested in professional development and would like to earn a Master’s in the Art of Teaching. Whatever the case may be, Marygrove College has several online masters’ programs tailored to fit your needs—and your wallet!


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                  Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, student engagement

                  5 Effective Reading Instruction Strategies For Any Grade

                  Posted on Tue, Sep 04, 2012 @ 12:09 PM

                  Teacher Reading to StudentsWithin the last few decades, the role of the principal has changed dramatically. Now in addition to all of the administrative and managerial duties s/he organizes behind the scenes, principals are often expected to:

                  • Design, implement and refine curricula
                  • Offer instructional support and improve
                    teaching and student learning

                  That being the case, we thought it might be useful to talk a bit about designing—or reimagining—your school’s reading program.

                  Like any skill, reading “muscles” become stronger when exercised regularly. And just like any sport or exercise, a competent coach (you/the teacher) and rigorous training program (designed, at least in part, by you) is vital to the trainee’s progress.

                  5 Effective Reading Instruction Strategies For Any Grade

                  • Let students choose…sometimes
                    Imagine being assigned complicated texts about subjects you dislike or know nothing about. Now imagine having to read them every day. Sound inspiring? Of course not. Granted, students don’t always have their own best interests in mind—so no doubt, a great majority of the texts they read will be chosen for them.

                    Here’s something to consider though: Research from Guthrie and Humenick suggests  that children who get to choose at least one thing to read per day are not only more engaged, but see an increase in reading comprehension skills. By allowing students to choose their reading material, they can select something at a comfortable reading level, something that interests them, and something they can relate to. Which brings us to Number 2.

                  • Offer interrelated materials that they understand
                    Skip the skill-oriented drills and use engaging, interrelated materials they understand. Texts should connect—and you should discuss those connections with students. The more they relate to characters, setting, and plot, the more likely they are to continue reading.

                  • Meaningful composition
                    Let children compose their own writing. No response to prompts, no fill-in-the-blank “dittos,” and forget question/answer formats. Why make writing a rote exercise? Let their writing transcend the classroom.

                    As we said, students don’t always have their own best interests in mind, so count on hearing some gripes early on. You'll hear lots of, "but I don't know what to write about..." Let them know that you are more interested in their ideas than you are in missing commas. I promise you, this will liberate them. Over time, students' free-form writing will begin to flow, allowing them to unconsciously put into practice what their effective reading instruction has been cultivating.

                  • Read Out Loud
                    Whether you have 18-year-olds or 8-year-olds, find some time to a) have them read out loud and b) have them listen to your read. Modeling fluent reading skills is one of the most useful, but also the most underused pedagogical practices. Modeling isn’t fancy and certainly doesn’t require special training, but research from Wu and Samuels proves that it helps the brain orient to rhythms, cadence, tone, expression, context; an added bonus, of course, is that it also piques students’ interest in the world of literature.

                  • Reading Clubs
                    The more children engage with each other about what they are reading (or have read), the more excited they get about the process. Set up book groups for a few minutes each week, allowing students to chat freely about their ideas, suggestions, and opinions. It boosts reading comprehension skills without them even knowing it.

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                  Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, student engagement, Role of Principal in School, Successful Schools, Developing Teachers

                  Reflections on Student Engagement: Don’t “Zsa Zsa Gabor” Them

                  Posted on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 @ 09:08 AM

                  LectureHall"I call everyone 'Darling' because I can't remember their names."
                  -Zsa Zsa Gabor

                  A few years ago, my fledgling kid brother walked into his first class at Central Michigan University. It was in one of those stadium-sized lecture halls—you know the kind: a wall of vertical-sliding chalkboards and a battalion of green, first-year students.

                  After everyone was settled, the professor introduced himself; then he pulled out a Polaroid camera and proceeded up the steps and down each aisle, snapping photos of every face he passed. After taking the photo, he handed it back to the student, along with a sharpie, and asked them to write their name along the white margin. Then he collected them without explanation.

                  When the class met again at the end of the week, the professor stood at the doorway and addressed each student (all 60 of them) by name as they entered and continued to do so until the end of the semester. I’ve never met the man, but his tenacity continues to impress me.    

                   In addition to writing for Marygrove College, I’ve also spent the past few years as an adjunct at one of the area’s community colleges. When I’m not in class, I’m in a shared office where a rotating roster of instructors cloister up during the few minutes before class and either prep, grade, console or gripe. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard colleagues admit that they don’t know any of their students by name (the average class size is 28 students). Some are red-faced as they say it, but for others it’s a fact of life: “Students come and go.” Most adjuncts are underpaid and overworked, so it makes sense how they got here, but it never fails to dishearten.Attendance2 App

                  It strikes me that even if it takes a few weeks to get them down, spending the time to know our students by name—regardless of how many classes we have—is one of the most important, and relatively effortless, gestures we can make.

                  You may not have a Polaroid (do they still make film for these?), but you probably have a smartphone. And if you have a smartphone and $4.99, give Attendance2 a try.

                  Not only does this app streamline the attendance-keeping process, it allows you to import your students’ names via Dropbox or email and customize each name with the built-in flashcard function that will put the name with the face—literally.

                  So when you’re looking out into a sea of unfamiliar faces on the first day of class, relax: Snap a photo and upload it to the app. You’ll never blank on your students’ names again. 

                  You might be interested in becoming an educational technologist; maybe you want to become a principal and are considering a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Perhaps you are interested in professional development and would like to earn a Master’s in the Art of Teaching. Whatever the case may be, Marygrove College has several online masters’ programs tailored to fit your needs—and your wallet!

                  Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, student engagement, Online Master's in Educational Leadership, Master's in Educational Technology Online

                  Flipped Teaching Subverts Lecture-Based Instruction. Does It Work?

                  Posted on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:08 AM

                  Flipped_ClassroomAlthough trends in education are moving away from lecture-based instruction and embracing a more interactive, student-centered form of education, many classrooms—for better or worse—still operate under the traditional paradigm: lectures, notes, quizzes, papers/projects, cumulative assessments, and then The Grade.

                  For many students this system may “work,” but according to Robert Talbot, an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Grand Valley State University, the traditional system doesn’t emulate real-life learning that demands we take charge and learn on our own.

                  Talbot argues that most of us have to find our way with very little instruction from outsiders.  We use trial and error to figure out how things work or how to improve ourselves and/or our performance. This is the idea behind flipped teaching, or inverted classrooms. It’s also, according to Talbot, what we must do in our everyday lives.

                  Flipped Teaching Offers a More Integrated Learning Process
                  In Talbot's inverted classroom, the students have Learning Objectives they are responsible for before they come to class. Talbot, who teaches a high-level math class at Grand Valley State University, has students watch 3-5 minute YouTube video lectures and provides printed lists of additional resources they might find helpful.  Students read a short section from the text book and usually have a few practice problems to work on.  They share their experiences, and their work, prior to class via a Piazza discussion board. This gives Talbot a last-minute chance to adjust his lesson plans based on students' needs.

                  Once students enter the classroom, they are given a very short quiz on the work they covered beforehand.  It is done using a clicker so Talbot has instant access to their progress. Then he opens the floor for approximately 10 minutes of question/answer time to clarify fuzzy concepts or to respond to applicable comments that were submitted to the piazza discussion board prior to class. In this way, the learning process is integrated using a variety of resources, instruction methods, teacher guidance, and student collaboration.

                  By having students independently, or collaboratively, prepare for lessons prior to class, Talbot is able to use approximately 30-35 minutes (of a 1 hour class period) to engage directly with students as they work out problems on their own, or with help from their peers.  Anyone in the teaching profession knows this is a significantly larger percentage of time than is ever available in the traditional lecture/note taking format.  Just think of all the times teachers are scrambling to get last bits of information out of their mouths as students hurriedly prepare to exit the classroom. Forget the idea of classroom one-on-one instruction time.

                  Flipped Teaching Offers Another Method for Empowering Students
                  Flipped teaching allows students to direct their own learning process, by digesting materials at their own pace, while a teacher stands by ready to assist when necessary. In fact, one of the major advantages of flipped teaching methods is that videos and short lectures to be seen before class time allows students the opportunity to revisit lectures, rewind them, pause for breaks, or to check back when they are taking a class and need a foundational refresher later on.

                  In the words of Talbot, "...most of the real work here is concentrated inside, not outside, the classroom," which is truly an inversion from traditional education models, especially those at the collegiate level.

                  We would love to hear your thoughts about the inverted classroom idea.
                  Imagine how flipped teaching would look for you as a teacher.  Does it inspire you? How would the preparation be different from your current methods?  Or, how do you feel about flipped teaching as a student?  What do you think are its strengths and weaknesses?  Are there classes you feel are more suited to an inverted classroom than others? Leave your comments and let us know.

                  More than ever, educational leadership is expected to successfully manage the institution and also improve teaching and learning. The modern administrator or principal also needs to be a visionary! Marygrove College offers a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, a program that will give you the tools, advanced knowledge and skills necessary to lead the modern school.


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                  Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, student engagement

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