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A Teacher’s Playbook for increasing Student Engagement πŸπŸˆπŸ“—

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Well hello there, fearless educators!

September…AKA the time when the honeymoon with our students comes to a screeching halt. It’s like they’ve all been bitten by the mischievous bug. Suddenly, they’re testing our boundaries like it’s a competitive sport. So, as the start of the school year adrenaline wears off, we can prepare for the reality of September.

Students feel it too! How does it parlay with them? From my experience it can range from silent mice with glazed over eyes due to the reality and pressures of school setting in, to herds of mischievous kangaroos trying to break free from a zoo!

Either way….depending on what I notice, I’m prepared to combat it!

Let’s talk about the kangaroos first…. 🦘

  1. Set clear expectations and consequences: Clearly communicate behavior and academic expectations to students, along with the consequences for negative actions. Being proactive always works better for me. For example, when I’m planning a lesson, I like to think of all of the things that can potentially go wrong (It’s the fun part where I get to think like a teenager) and then I plan ahead of time to foil their plot of lesson destruction. If that doesn’t work, I go to plan B, connecting with a parent and going back to my favorite book Conscious Classroom Management. Click Here For A Copy Of My Parent Communication Log
  2. Personalized support and proactive planning: (Let’s back up first )πŸ”™ Did you know that in 2019 the CDC published that “Trauma is possibly the largest public health issue facing our children today.” Did you know that up to two-thirds of U.S. children have experienced at least one type of serious childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect, natural disaster, or experiencing or witnessing violence. Now knowing this, let’s get back to the headline. I like to try and identify as many personalized reasons behind the student’s poor behavior or academic performance as I can. I do this by looking in the student’s file folder, having conversations with the student, talking to parents, other teachers, checking out their friend group, etc. Many times I find out the student has had a variety of trauma in their lives. When I notice this, I immediately increase my trauma-informed teaching strategies. (And no, this is not natural for everyone, I have had to learn A LOT about trauma-informed teaching strategies!) Is you feel like I originally did, here’s a great place to start to grow your teacher tool belt on trauma-informed teaching strategies.
  3. Foster engagement and positive reinforcement: Encourage active participation in learning by creating opportunities for the student to contribute their ideas. Provide positive reinforcement for their efforts and achievements, focusing on their strengths and progress to motivate them to improve.

For more specific and highly effective strategies on classroom management, check out this link about my favorite book on classroom management! I have referred to this book year after year!

Next up…the silent classroom mice 🐭

  1. Encourage Active Participation: Create an engaging classroom environment with interactive teaching methods like group discussions and hands-on activities. Here are two stand alone lesson ideas to reengage your class: Team Building Activity: Who Survives Survivor Island??? and Academic Conversations After state testing last spring my students were tired and disengaged in me teaching about the New Deal. After a few days of dragging them with me along the lesson, I knew I had to try something different! That’s when I created the lesson titled Group Activity: Technology of the 21st century- March Madness tournament.
  2. Build Positive Relationships: Establish supportive relationships with disengaged or quiet students. Show genuine interest in their thoughts, concerns, and interests. Regularly check in, offer encouragement, praise, and constructive feedback to boost their confidence and motivation. Feedback…like this…. Positive reinforcement for students- Note to Parents- Happy Go Home note!
  3. Differentiate Instruction: Adapt teaching strategies and materials to meet the unique needs and preferences of disengaged or quiet students. Provide alternative assignments aligned with their interests or strengths. Sometimes a skill building activity on a unique topic like an Art Analysis from The Harlem Renaissance or learning how to research better to Prove or Debunk Historical Conspiracy Theories is just the lesson that students need after a long weekend! (Like Labor Day πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ)

Finding your marigolds…

As I mentioned in August, I love nature, especially flowers. After spending a day at a nursery with dirt stained hands, the stress of a long week in the classroom brings me a sense of peace. I especially love marigolds, like these beauties in the picture above that are currently blooming! These vibrant flowers, which thrive in my region from April to November, have the remarkable ability to constantly transform. Their captivating orange, yellow, or red blooms fade away, making room for new blossoms. It is this constant cycle of growth and renewal that truly fascinates me. Similar to these resilient flowers, we too must be willing to let go of the old in order to embrace the new.

One of the secrets to the marigold’s continued vitality lies in the necessity of pruning. Just as we need to trim and shape the plants to encourage their growth, we must also be willing to prune aspects of our own lives. By letting go of negative habits, toxic relationships, and self-limiting beliefs, we create space for personal growth and development. It is through this process of pruning that we can emerge stronger and more resilient, just like the marigolds.

Schools are filled with marigolds. They can be found almost everywhere if you seek them out. Year after year, I plant marigolds and year after year, I seek them out at my school. Unlike many other flowers with short lifespans, marigolds possess an enduring quality. However, to maintain this enduring quality, they have to stay away from walnut trees. Read this article titled Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule For Teachers and you’ll learn how to identify walnut trees too.

Until next month, bloom on, marigold.

Miss last month’s blog? Check it out below!