Saturday, April 16, 2016

Student Engagement from Edutopia

This is the work of Nicolas Pino James an Education Consultant and Reseracher.  This was posted on

When we think of student engagement in learning activities, it is often convenient to understand engagement with an activity as being represented by good behavior (i.e. behavioral engagement), positive feelings (i.e. emotional engagement), and, above all, student thinking (i.e. cognitive engagement) (Fredricks, 2014). This is because students may be behaviorally and/or emotionally invested in a given activity without actually exerting the necessary mental effort to understand and master the knowledge, craft, or skill that the activity promotes.
In light of this, research suggests that considering the following interrelated elements when designing and implementing learning activities may help increase student engagement behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively, thereby positively affecting student learning and achievement.

1. Make It Meaningful

In aiming for full engagement, it is essential that students perceive activities as being meaningful. Research has shown that if students do not consider a learning activity worthy of their time and effort, they might not engage in a satisfactory way, or may even disengage entirely in response (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). To ensure that activities are personally meaningful, we can, for example, connect them with students' previous knowledge and experiences, highlighting the value of an assigned activity in personally relevant ways. Also, adult or expert modeling can help to demonstrate why an individual activity is worth pursuing, and when and how it is used in real life.

2. Foster a Sense of Competence

The notion of competence may be understood as a student's ongoing personal evaluation of whether he or she can succeed in a learning activity or challenge. (Can I do this?) Researchers have found that effectively performing an activity can positively impact subsequent engagement (Schunk & Mullen, 2012). To strengthen students' sense of competence in learning activities, the assigned activities could:
  • Be only slightly beyond students' current levels of proficiency
  • Make students demonstrate understanding throughout the activity
  • Show peer coping models (i.e. students who struggle but eventually succeed at the activity) and peer mastery models (i.e. students who try and succeed at the activity)
  • Include feedback that helps students to make progress

3. Provide Autonomy Support

We may understand autonomy support as nurturing the students' sense of control over their behaviors and goals. When teachers relinquish control (without losing power) to the students, rather than promoting compliance with directives and commands, student engagement levels are likely to increase as a result (Reeve, Jang, Carrell, Jeon, & Barch, 2004). Autonomy support can be implemented by:
  • Welcoming students' opinions and ideas into the flow of the activity
  • Using informational, non-controlling language with students
  • Giving students the time they need to understand and absorb an activity by themselves

4. Embrace Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is another powerful facilitator of engagement in learning activities. When students work effectively with others, their engagement may be amplified as a result (Wentzel, 2009), mostly due to experiencing a sense of connection to others during the activities (Deci & Ryan, 2000). To make group work more productive, strategies can be implemented to ensure that students know how to communicate and behave in that setting. Teacher modeling is one effective method (i.e. the teacher shows how collaboration is done), while avoiding homogeneous groups and grouping by ability, fostering individual accountability by assigning different roles, and evaluating both the student and the group performance also support collaborative learning.

5. Establish Positive Teacher-Student Relationships

High-quality teacher-student relationships are another critical factor in determining student engagement, especially in the case of difficult students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (Fredricks, 2014). When students form close and caring relationships with their teachers, they are fulfilling their developmental need for a connection with others and a sense of belonging in society (Scales, 1991). Teacher-student relationships can be facilitated by:
  • Caring about students' social and emotional needs
  • Displaying positive attitudes and enthusiasm
  • Increasing one-on-one time with students
  • Treating students fairly
  • Avoiding deception or promise-breaking

6. Promote Mastery Orientations

Finally, students' perspective of learning activities also determines their level of engagement. When students pursue an activity because they want to learn and understand (i.e. mastery orientations), rather than merely obtain a good grade, look smart, please their parents, or outperform peers (i.e. performance orientations), their engagement is more likely to be full and thorough (Anderman & Patrick, 2012). To encourage this mastery orientation mindset, consider various approaches, such as framing success in terms of learning (e.g. criterion-referenced) rather than performing (e.g. obtaining a good grade). You can also place the emphasis on individual progress by reducing social comparison (e.g. making grades private) and recognizing student improvement and effort.
Do you generally consider any of the above facilitators of engagement when designing and implementing learning activities? If so, which ones? If not, which are new to you?


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This is Our Time: Dream Big, Work Hard!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016---Dream Big--Read!

3rd Quarter is here!  I anticipate a great quarter with lots of student growth and development.

I am excited about our 3rd Quarter Reading Challenge--we have had to submissions already.  Each morning we will randomly choose one to read, eventually we will have students read their own but to start we will read it.  Students that submit reading challenge sheets will receive a small token and the class with the most submissions at the end of the quarter will get to submit their requests for their celebration and one of the requests will be honored.  Let's push reading..every child, every day should have an experience with a book--being read to and reading on their own, when applicable.  Students only get better at reading by reading and developing a love for books.  

This Week's Learning Showcase: Beyond Right Answers: Math and Common Core Standards

This week's video comes from The Teaching Channel and is part of the Let's Chat Core video/webinar series.  This is a great beginning or refresher video about Common Core Math.

Calling all Honor Roll students! Look for an e-mail this week about how we are celebrating Honor Roll students. 

Our next Bolton Bear Pride Celebration is coming soon!  All submissions should be in by Monday, 2/15/16.  The celebration is scheduled for Friday, 2/26/16.  

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16, 2016: Welcome to 3rd Quarter---The Urgency of Now!

We can stop and celebrate that we have made it through the first two quarters of the 2015-2016 school year.  We have much to celebrate and much to be grateful for.  Despite the numerous changes at the state level with school status--there is always something to be grateful for! Now it's time to push and make the most amazing impact on the lives of our students during quarters 3 and 4.  The moment is NOW to think about the following:

1) What relationships have I built with my students?  Are there one or two students that could use a little more in this area?

2) Where are my students now?

3) What do they need to get where they need to be?

4) What do I need to adjust? add? change? eliminate?

5) What supports do I need to make this happen? 

As you we plan, reflect and work together in Professional Learning Teams we have to be aware that there is a real sense of urgency to make sure that we make the changes that need to be made to push us to where we need to be. 

Why Urgency?
The rate of change is increasing so fast
The need to do something that addresses where we need to go is upon us.

From John Kotter's A Sense of Urgency:

"The dictionary tells us that urgency means “of pressing importance.” When people have a true sense of urgency, they think that action on critical issues is needed now, not eventually, not when it fits easily into a schedule. Now means making real progress every single day. Critically important means challenges that are central to success or survival, winning or losing. A sense of urgency is not an attitude that I must have the project team meeting today, it all starts with a sense of urgency about everyday. Urgent behavior is not driven by a belief that all is well or that everything is a mess but, instead, that the world contains great opportunities and great hazards. Even more so, urgent action is not created by feelings of contentment, anxiety, frustration, or anger, but by a gut-level determination to move, and win, now." 

We are winners, dreamers and NOW is the time to DREAM BIG and let our daily actions line up with this thought!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December 14-18, 2015--Bolton Days of Joy and Cheer!

We are very grateful for and fortunate to have such a wonderful Bolton staff.  We would like to add a little extra joy and cheer to your days by showing you how very much we appreciate you. So this week we will celebrate the Bolton Days of Joy and Cheer!  
We hope you enjoy this!

On the First Day of Bolton Joy and Cheer:
Hot Chocolate Bar w/ all of the fixins in the Workroom
Monday, December 14th beginning at 7:45 am

On the Second Day of Bolton Joy and Cheer:
Pastries in the Workroom…stop in a pick up a pastry when you arrive.
Tuesday, December 15th

On the Third Day of Bolton Joy and Cheer:
Reindeer Trail Mix in the Workroom, stop by a grab a scoop of 
Reindeer Trail Mix when you arrive. 
Wednesday, December 16th

On the Fourth Day of Bolton Joy and Cheer:
Have a Holly Jolly Day! Check your mailbox on this day!
Thursday, December 17th

On the Fifth Day of Bolton Joy and Cheer:

Lots of laugh…It’s Ugly Sweater Day!  Let’s have some fun with this. 
Friday, December 18th 

  Happy Holidays and thank you for all you do every day to make 
our school a wonderful place to be!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2015

One simple but heartfelt thing this week....Happy Thanksgiving to each of you! Enjoy every moment of your time with your family and friends.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

November 16-20, 2015----High Expectations!

November 16-20, 2015----HIGH EXPECTATIONS! 

We are moving swiftly through our 2nd quarter.  The weather is changing and during this very busy November/December season I find it is always a good time to do a self check.  This week we want to go back to one of our foundational pieces of the Bolton family---High Expectations.  High Expectations for ourselves and the children that rely on us to do our part to prepare them for success in school and life. We model our expectations and belief in students in so many ways--tone of voice, how we greet them in the morning, how we handle their problems, our structure and organization for the day, etc.

This week's Learning Showcase comes from Edutopia:

The Pygmalion Effect: Communicating High Expectations by Ben Solomon

In 1968, two researchers conducted a fascinating study that proved the extent to which teacher expectations influence student performance. Positive expectations influence performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively. In educational circles, this has been termed the Pygmalion Effect, or more colloquially, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What has always intrigued me about this study is specifically what the teachers did to communicate that they believed a certain set of students had "unusual potential for academic growth." The research isn't overly explicit about this, but it indicates that the teachers "may have paid closer attention to the students, and treated them differently in times of difficulty." This raises the following questions:
  • Why can't teachers treat all of their students like this?
  • How do we communicate to students whether we believe in them or not?

Excellence, Celebration, and Success

Based on my experience coaching AVID schools around the country, there are ways that I've seen teachers communicate to all of their students that they have high expectations. Here are a few practical tips that you can borrow from them:

Be Excellent in All Ways

Everything speaks. Every student deserves a clean, organized classroom. Every student deserves a structured and engaging learning environment. Every student deserves lessons that are well thought-out and delivered every day. Excellence is a habit that is cultivated. When we model this every day, we communicate to students that excellence is the expectation.

Celebrate Small Victories

Say, "I'm proud of you" -- and say it often. The day that I opened my college acceptance letter was the only time that I ever remember my dad saying, "I'm proud of you." It was so impactful and memorable for me that I tried to say that phrase to students every chance I got. Passed a test? "I'm proud of you." Got to class on time? "I'm proud of you." It's a low-cost investment with the potential for life-altering rewards. I love hearing teachers say, "Great job" or "You did it!" It's positive reinforcement at its finest.

Make Failure Unacceptable

The single most impactful way that we can communicate our beliefs to students may be how we react when they fail an assignment, test, or grading period. Rather than ignoring the situation or moving students to a different class, we must communicate this:
My job as your teacher was for you to learn this material, so let's figure out how to make that happen. If you're not learning the way that I teach, maybe I need to teach the way that you learn. Is this a cognition issue? Then let's get you to tutoring. Is it a learning strategies issue? Then let's talk about other ways to study, learn, and organize your thinking. Is this a motivation issue? Then let's talk about the short- and long-term repercussions of failing.
Failure cannot be the path of least resistance in our classes. Rather, we must do everything that we can to make failure unacceptable and difficult. When we accept students' failure, we give them permission to accept it as well. However, when we show that nothing they can do will ever make us give up on them, we give them permission to start believing in themselves.
So here are my challenges to you:
  • Look around your classroom or at your lesson plan for tomorrow. What is one component that you can make more excellent?
  • Find one thing to celebrate tomorrow, and look one student directly in the eye and tell him or her, "I'm proud of you."
  • Think of one student who has failed an assignment or grading period recently, make time to meet with him or her individually, and figure out a plan to not let it happen again.

November 17---Science Night and Book Fair Night--Certified staff please plan to attend.

November 17-20---ITBS Testing Week for a small number of students

November 20--Picture Make-Up Day

November 23--Haiku Training #2 

December 2---Staff Meeting at 7:30 am