Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I will fully admit, as I sit to write this post, that it is probably not the most jazzy of my posts to date, but it is weighing heavy on my mind- and truth be told- my heart as well.

Engagement is an issue in our schools! I believe ALL schools have this problem! Not all classrooms, but in all schools there are children who are watching the clock, waiting for this thing that they consider torture, that others call school,  to be OVER!

I was never one of those students. I loved school.  Rather, I had my new pens, I had my Trapper Keeper (yes- I just dated myself) and was the one talking in class! Equity sticks were designed to keep me QUIET! However, when I observe in schools, I see the opposite! Especially in late elementary school, middle school and high school.

So... for that reason let's talk about engagement.

I have a few questions to ask you:
Are your students participating?
Do kids talk (about academics) during your class?
Are there kids that get by the whole day without saying a word?
Doesn't this bother you!?

Let's think about this! Linda Hoyt says, "Float the learning on a sea of talk!" If you've ever been in my trainings, you know I believe in it! I probably say Turn and Talk more than you'd like, but one thing is also true- you participate! You have to- and many of you actually want to!  I usually say turn and talk, at a point when you are itching to talk with your neighbor about the learning anyway!

So one of the first things that could potentially increase engagement is TURN AND TALK!  Use it! Please! I'm probably preaching to the choir, right? If so, you can stop reading now!

Turn and Talk allows more students to grapple with the content. Let all kids talk about the answer before one kid gives the answer to the class. Try it for a week! Keep track of the number of times you use it! Set a goal- three times each class/subject!

Participation can be accomplished with turn and talk... but it can still be avoided by students! How are you being equitable in who you ask to participate? I am not here to argue that equity sticks work in every classroom or for every teacher, but they are worth a shot!. Equity sticks, popsicle sticks, whatever you call them, they let students know that at any time, any day, even without volunteering, they may be called upon to participate!

I honestly never used them in my classroom. But, now I wish I did! Is it possible that I always called on the same kids? YES! Is it possible that I never called on others? Absolutely! If I could go back, I would do things differently. (Wouldn't we all?) I would keep allowing kids to turn and talk, but I'd also have student numbers, or desk numbers, or popsicle sticks- but the cool kind- an APP version of course!  

Kids (even if they haven't raised their hands) need to participate- and be called on!  Is it possible that kids won't know the answer- of course! So think about what you would want them to say- because I don't know is an excuse! Instead, brainstorm a list together.  Do you have the anchor chart for what to say instead of IDK?

I remember a student one year, who noticeably did not participate, and it was because she was incredibly shy.  We used talking chips with her! Each day she started with three counters on her name tag, her goal was to get rid of them (by participating) by the end of the day! It worked. The other thing I appreciate about this is the ownership for learning and working that it places back on the students!

Engagement is an issue! It is our job to not let kids slide through their school day without being made to work, participate, or talk! Join me in efforts to see kids involved in their learning every day, in every classroom.

Share your ideas with me! How do you keep your students (all of them) ready and willing to participate each day!


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