<![CDATA[The Dearborn Academy - Student Engagement Article]]>Sat, 05 Dec 2015 02:01:42 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Carol Dweck revisits the 'Growth Mindset                   Education Week-September 22, 2015]]>Fri, 04 Dec 2015 19:21:26 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset-education-week-september-22-2015For many years, I secretly worked on my research. I say “secretly” because, once upon a time, researchers simply published their research in professional journals—and there it stayed.

However, my colleagues and I learned things we thought people needed to know. We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. Finally, we found that having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) could foster a growth mindset and its benefits.

So a few years back, I published my book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to share these discoveries with educators. And many educators have applied the mindset principles in spectacular ways with tremendously gratifying results.

This is wonderful, and the good word continues to spread. But as we’ve watched the growth mindset become more popular, we’ve become much wiser about how to implement it. This learning—the common pitfalls, the misunderstandings, and what to do about them—is what I’d like to share with you, so that we can maximize the benefits for our students.

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort.
Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.

We also need to remember that effort is a means to an end to the goal of learning and improving. Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning. The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.”

“The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them.”

Recently, someone asked what keeps me up at night. It’s the fear that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!” The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about a student’s current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter.

I also fear that the mindset work is sometimes used to justify why some students aren’t learning: “Oh, he has a fixed mindset.” We used to blame the child’s environment or ability.

Must it always come back to finding a reason why some children just can’t learn, as opposed to finding a way to help them learn? Teachers who understand the growth mindset do everything in their power to unlock that learning.

A few years ago, my colleague in Australia, Susan Mackie, detected an outbreak of what she called “false growth mindset.” She was seeing educators who claimed to have a growth mindset, but whose words and actions didn’t reflect it. At first, I was skeptical. But before long, I saw it, too, and I understood why.

In many quarters, a growth mindset had become the right thing to have, the right way to think. It was as though educators were faced with a choice: Are you an enlightened person who fosters students’ well-being? Or are you an unenlightened person, with a fixed mindset, who undermines them? So, of course, many claimed the growth-mindset identity. But the path to a growth mindset is a journey, not a proclamation.

Let’s look at what happens when teachers, or parents, claim a growth mindset, but don’t follow through. In recent research, Kathy Liu Sun found that there were many math teachers who endorsed a growth mindset and even said the words “growth mindset” in their middle school math classes, but did not follow through in their classroom practices. In these cases, their students tended to endorse more of a fixed mindset about their math ability. My advisee and research collaborator Kyla Haimovitz and I are finding many parents who endorse a growth mindset, but react to their children’s mistakes as though they are problematic or harmful, rather than helpful. In these cases, their children develop more of a fixed mindset about their intelligence.

How can we help educators adopt a deeper, true growth mindset, one that will show in their classroom practices? 
You may be surprised by my answer: Let’s legitimize the fixed mindset. Let’s acknowledge that (1) we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, (2) we will probably always be, and (3) if we want to move closer to a growth mindset in our thoughts and practices, we need to stay in touch with our fixed-mindset thoughts and deeds.

If we “ban” the fixed mindset, we will surely create false growth-mindsets. (By the way, I also fear that if we use mindset measures for accountability, we will create false growth mindsets on an unprecedented scale.) But if we watch carefully for our fixed-mindset triggers, we can begin the true journey to a growth mindset.

What are your triggers?
Watch for a fixed-mindset reaction when you face challenges. Do you feel overly anxious, or does a voice in your head warn you away? Watch for it when you face a setback in your teaching, or when students aren’t listening or learning. Do you feel incompetent or defeated? Do you look for an excuse? Watch to see whether criticism brings out your fixed mindset. Do you become defensive, angry, or crushed instead of interested in learning from the feedback? Watch what happens when you see an educator who’s better than you at something you value. Do you feel envious and threatened, or do you feel eager to learn? Accept those thoughts and feelings and work with and through them. And keep working with and through them.

My colleagues and I are taking a growth-mindset stance toward our message to educators. Maybe we originally put too much emphasis on sheer effort. Maybe we made the development of a growth mindset sound too easy. Maybe we talked too much about people having one mindset or the other, rather than portraying people as mixtures. We are on a growth-mindset journey, too.]]>
<![CDATA[Introduction to Capturing Kids Hearts: Power Point ]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:38:45 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/introduction-to-capturing-kids-hearts-power-point
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<![CDATA[Hands-On Apps for Diverse Learners]]>Fri, 30 Oct 2015 15:47:26 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/hands-on-apps-for-diverse-learnersEdutopia Issue: September 8, 2015
By: Matthew Farber

Closing games to teach can increase student engagement and add meaning to learning. Hands-on apps give children the ability to mix tactile play with a digital experience. Thanks to augmented reality, more and more apps in the market blur the line between digital and analog. For example, Bloxels, new from Pixel Press, uses color-coded blocks that can be scanned in with an iPad camera to create a video game level. Osmo is another digital/analog blend. The kit includes a stand and a reflector for an iPad camera, enabling users to play with physical tangram puzzles or word games.Hands-On Game JamThis summer, I organized a hands-on game jam day at the A. Harry Moore School at New Jersey City University, which serves students from ages 3- 21 who have low-incidence disabilities. Many of the students are in wheelchairs.
For the opening whole-group session, I showed a BrainPOP video about video games. Next, everyone was given a hands-on task: to explore the "playability" of objects. Each table had an assortment of plastic cups, ping-pong balls, string, tape, and other items. The goal was to make a simple game out of everyday objects. A cup would no longer serve its intended purpose for drinking water. Instead, it became a basketball hoop, a phone (attached to a string), and a hat! This theme reoccurred throughout the day. Tactile and kinesthetic learning would be paired with game-like activities. For more on the playability of objects, check out Institute of Play's Beta Game Kit.
Teachers next hosted 30-minute breakout sessions in different classrooms, taking care to ensure that students were as active as possible in playing, creating, and designing.
One room featured Compose Yourself, a new game from ThinkFun (publisher of the coding board game Robot Turtles, Laser Maze, MakerStudio, and other fun learning toys). Compose Yourself was designed by music composer Philip Sheppard. As with many good games, Compose Yourself emphasizes play first. After all, writing music is hard. To play, choose cards from the set. Each is transparent and adorned with a measure of music notes. They can be flipped around or turned over. Enter one of the four accompanying codes on each card into a computer browser and listen to a world-class orchestra play the melody back! Students can then download and share their compositions. They can also print out their songs. This enables children to play with musical compositions. This video shows you how to play Compose Yourself.
Playing With TechConstructasaurus, playable for free on BrainPOP Jr.'s GameUp page, was next. Developed by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, it gives students the opportunity to build a dinosaur. Once built, the dinosaur is "tested" -- too top heavy and it might tip over! This game activity worked well on an interactive whiteboard.
Another classroom remixed the party game HedBanz. The facilitating teacher adapted the reverse-charades guessing game to also include objects, and students were given blank index cards to make their own variations. Teacher-facilitated modifications helped achieve the goal of keeping everyone engaged in a playful experience.
The gym featured Sphero, the robotic iPad-controlled ball. Students were given the chance to maneuver it though an obstacle course. Not surprisingly, some children opted to play around with the Sphero, guiding it outside of the planned obstacles. Keeping with the spirit of play and fun, this was encouraged.
I ran the Makey Makey session. The kit essentially hacks a computer's keyboard to a tiny, external device. Next, attach one end of the color-coded alligator clips to the Makey Makey device and the other end to a low-conductive object, like fruit, Play D'oh, or aluminum foil. Doing so turns everyday objects into computer keys, such as the space bar or the arrow keys.
Using one of the many Makey Makey-themed Scratch projects, I turned bananas into a drum kit. When students walked into the room, they were greeted with me playing the banana cowbell. At first, one of the children remarked that it was "all weird and awkward" to use anything but the keyboard attached to the laptop. After I explained basic circuitry, I handed her some Play D’oh. I then challenged her to make a customized video game controller. By the end of the session, she remarked, "This was fun!" As it turned out, the girl who began as a skeptic played a round of Pac-Man using her hacked game controller!
Keeping the Fun in Game-Based LearningGames should serve as a tool for teaching and learning. Don't let the constraints of rules create a structure that is too rigid. Students require freedom to play within the game's system. Hands-on, tactile play is an engaging solution to keep game-based learning fun!
What's your experience with diverse learners and game-based methods? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.

<![CDATA[Twenty Ideas for Engaging Projects]]>Thu, 03 Sep 2015 01:21:54 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/twenty-ideas-for-engaging-projectsEdutopia: September 2, 2011 by Suzie Boss

The start of the school year offers an ideal time to introduce students to project-based learning. By starting with engaging projects, you'll grab their interest while establishing a solid foundation of important skills, such as knowing how to conduct research, engage experts, and collaborate with peers. In honor of Edutopia's 20th anniversary, here are 20 project ideas to get learning off to a good start.

1. Flat Stanley Refresh: Flat Stanley literacy projects are perennial favorites for inspiring students to communicate and connect, often across great distances. Now Flat Stanley has his own apps for iPhone and iPad, along with new online resources. Project founder Dale Hubert is recently retired from the classroom, but he's still generating fresh ideas to bring learning alive in the "flatlands."

2. PBL is No Accident: In West Virginia, project-based learning has been adopted as a statewide strategy for improving teaching and learning. Teachers don't have to look far to find good project ideas. In this CNN storyabout the state's educational approach, read about a project that grew out of a fender-bender in a school parking lot. When students were asked to come up with a better design for the lot, they applied their understanding of geometry, civics, law, engineering, and public speaking. Find more good ideas in West Virginia's Teach21 project library.

3. Defy Gravity: Give your students a chance to investigate what happens near zero gravity by challenging them to design an experiment for NASA to conduct at its 2.2 second drop tower in Brookpark, Ohio. Separate NASA programs are offered for middle school and high school. Or, propose a project that may land you a seat on the ultimate roller coaster (aka: the "vomit comet"), NASA aircraft that produces periods of micro and hyper gravity ranging from 0 to 2 g's. Proposal deadline is Sept. 21, and flight week takes place in February 2012.

4. Connect Across Disciplines: When students design and build kinetic sculptures, they expand their understanding of art, history, engineering, language arts, and technology. Get some interdisciplinary project insights from the Edutopia video, Kinetic ConundrumClick on the accompanying links for more tips about how you can do it, too.

5. Honor Home Languages: English language learners can feel pressured to master English fast, with class time spent correcting errors instead of using language in meaningful ways. Digital IS, a site published by the National Writing Project, shares plans for three projects that take time to honor students' home languages and cultures, engaging them incritical thinking, collaboration, and use of digital tools. Anne Herrington and Charlie Moran curate the project collection, "English Language Learners, Digital Tools, and Authentic Audiences."

6. Rethink Lunch: Make lunch into a learning opportunity with a project that gets students thinking more critically about their mid-day meal. Center for Ecoliteracy offers materials to help you start, including informative including informative essays and downloadable planning guides. Get more ideas fromthis video about a middle-school nutrition project, "A Healthy School Lunch."

7. Take a Learning Expedition: Expeditionary Learning schools take students on authentic learning expeditions, often in neighborhoods close to home. Check out the gallery for project ideas about everything from the tools people use in their work to

8. Find a Pal: If PBL is new to you, consider joining an existing project. You'll benefit from a veteran colleague's insights, and your students will get a chance to collaborate with classmates from other communities or even other countries. Get connected at ePals, a global learning community for educators from more than 200 countries.

9. Get Minds Inquiring: What's under foot? What are things made of? Science projects that emphasize inquiry help students make sense of their world and build a solid foundation for future understanding. The Inquiry Project supports teachers in third to fifth grades as they guide students in hands-on investigations about matter. Students develop the habits of scientists as they make observations, offer predictions, and gather evidence. Companion videos show how scientists use the same methods to explore the world. Connect inquiry activities to longer-term projects, such as creating a classroom museum that showcases students' investigations.

10. Learn through Service: When cases of the West Nile virus were reported in their area, Minnesota students sprang into action with a project that focused on preventing the disease through public education. Their project demonstrates what can happen when service-learning principles are built into PBL. Find more ideas for service-learning projects from theNational Youth Leadership Council.

11. Locate Experts: When students are learning through authentic projects, they often need to connect with experts from the world outside the classroom. Find the knowledgeable experts you need for STEM projects through the National Lab Network. It's an online network where K-12 educators can locate experts from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

12. Build Empathy: Projects that help students see the world from another person's perspective build empathy along with academic outcomes. The Edutopia video, "Give Me Shelter", shows what compassionate learning looks like in action. Click on the companion links for more suggestions about how you can do it, too.

13. Investigate Climate Science: Take students on an investigation of climate science by joining the newest collaborative project hosted by GLOBE, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. The Student Climate Research Campaign includes three components: introductory activities to build a foundation of understanding, intensive observing periods when students around the world gather and report data, and research investigations that students design and conduct. Climate project kicks off Sept. 12.

14. Problem-Solvers Unite: Math fairs take mathematics out of the classroom and into the community, where everyone gets a chance to try their hand at problem solving. Galileo Educational Network explains how to host a math fair. In a nutshell, students set up displays of their math problems but not the solutions. Then they entice their parents and invited guests to work on solutions. Make the event even more engaging by inviting mathematicians to respond to students' problems.

15. Harvest Pennies : Can small things really add up to big results? It seems so, based on results of the Penny Harvest. Since the project started in New York in 1991, young philanthropists nationwide have raised and donated more than $8 million to charitable causes, all through penny drives. The project website explains how to organize students in philanthropy roundtables to study community issues and decide which causes they want to support.

16. Gather Stories: Instead of teaching history from textbooks, put students in the role of historian and help them make sense of the past. Learn more about how to plan oral history projects in the Edutopia story, "Living Legends." Teach students about the value of listening by having them gather stories for StoryCorps.

17. Angry Bird Physics: Here's a driving question to kickstart a science project: "What are the laws of physics in Angry Birds world?" Read how physics teachers like Frank Noschese and John Burk are using the web version of the popular mobile game in their classrooms.

18. Place-Based Projects: Make local heritage, landscapes, and culture the jumping-off point for compelling projects. That's the idea behind place-based education, which encourages students to look closely at their communities. Often, they wind up making significant contributions to their communities, as seen in the City of Stories project.

19. News They Can Use: Students don't have to wait until they're grown-ups to start publishing. Student newspapers, radio stations, and other journalism projects give them real-life experiences now. Award-winning journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki outlines the benefits this post on the New York Times Learning Network. Get more ideas about digital-age citizen journalism projects at MediaShift Idea Lab.

20. The Heroes They Know: To get acquainted with students at the start of the year and also introduce students to PBL processes, High Tech High teacher Diana Sanchez asked students to create a visual and textual representation of a hero in their own life. Their black-and-white exhibits were a source of pride to students, as Sanchez explains in her project reflection . Get more ideas from the project gallery at High Tech High, a network of 11 schools in San Diego County that emphasize PBL. To learn more, watch this Edutopia video interview with High Tech High founding principal Larry Rosenstock.

Please tell us about the projects you are planning for this school year. Questions about PBL? Draw on the wisdom of your colleagues by starting discussions or asking for help in the PBL community.


<![CDATA[Strengthening Student Engagement: What Do Students Want (and what really motivates them)?                                                           Richard Strong, Harvey F. Silver and Amy Robinson]]>Mon, 24 Aug 2015 21:36:13 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/strengthening-student-engagement-what-do-students-want-and-what-really-motivates-them-richard-strong-harvey-f-silver-and-amy-robinsonStudents who are engaged in their work are energized by four goals—success, curiosity, originality, and satisfying relationships. How do we cultivate these drives in the classroom?

Ten years ago, we began a research project by asking both teachers and students two simple questions: What kind of work do you find totally engaging? and What kind of work do you hate to do? Almost immediately, we noticed distinct patterns in their responses.

Engaging work, respondents said, was work that stimulated their curiosity, permitted them to express their creativity, and fostered positive relationships with others. It was also work at which they were good. As for activities they hated, both teachers and students cited work that was repetitive, that required little or no thought, and that was forced on them by others.

How, then, would we define engagement? Perhaps the best definition comes from the work of Phil Schlecty (1994), who says students who are engaged exhibit three characteristics: (1) they are attracted to their work, (2) they persist in their work despite challenges and obstacles, and (3) they take visible delight in accomplishing their work.

Most teachers have seen these signs of engagement during a project, presentation, or lively class discussion. They have caught glimpses of the inspired inner world of a child, and hoped to sustain this wonder, enthusiasm, and perseverance every day. At the same time, they may have felt stymied by traditions of reward and punishment. Our challenge is to transcend these very real difficulties and provide a practical model for understanding what our students want and need.

Goals and Needs: The SCORE as the responses to our questions showed, people who are engaged in their work are driven by four essential goals, each of which satisfies a particular human need:

  • Success (the need for mastery),
  • Curiosity (the need for understanding),
  • Originality (the need for self-expression),
  • Relationships (the need for involvement with others).

These four goals form the acronym for our model of student engagement--SCORE. Under the right classroom conditions and at the right level for each student, they can build the motivation and Energy (to complete our acronym) that is essential for a complete and productive life. These goals can provide students with the energy to deal constructively with the complexity, confusion, repetition, and ambiguities of life (the drive toward completion).

Rethinking Motivation The concept of “score” is a metaphor about performance, but one that also suggests a work or art, as in a musical score. By aiming to combine achievement and artistry, the SCORE model can reach beyond strict dichotomies of right/wrong and pass/fail, and even bypass the controversy about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, on which theories of educational motivation have long been based.

Extrinsic motivation—a motivator that is external to the student or the task at hand—has long been perceived as the bad boy of motivational theory. In Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn (1995) lays out the prevailing arguments against extrinsic rewards, such as grades and gold stars. He maintains that reliance on factors external to the task and to the individual consistently fails to produce any deep and long-lasting commitment to learning.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within, and is generally considered more durable and self-enhancing (Kohn 1993). Still, although intrinsic motivation gets much better press, it, too, has its weaknesses. As Kohn argues, because intrinsic motivation “is a concept that exists only in the context of the individual,” the prescriptions its proponents offer teachers, are often too radically individualized, or too bland and abstract, to be applied in classroom settings (See “Punished by Rewards? A Conversation with Alfie Kohn,” p. 13).

Perhaps it is the tradition of separating extrinsic and intrinsic motivation that is flawed. Robert Sternberg and Todd Lubart recently addressed this possibility in Defying the Crowd (1995). They assert that any in-depth examination of the work of highly creative people reveals a blend of both types of motivation.

Knowing the SCORE after taking into consideration the needs and drives we've mentioned, our model poses four important questions that teachers must ask themselves in order to score the level of engagement in their classrooms.

  1. Under what conditions are students most likely to feel that they can be successful?
  2. When are students most likely to become curious?
  3. How can we help students satisfy their natural drive toward self-expression?
  4. How can we motivate students to learn by using their natural desire to create and foster good peer relationships?

Much of what we will discuss is already taking place in classrooms across the country. The point of our SCORE model of engagement is first to help teachers discover what they are already doing right and then to encourage the cultivation of everyday classroom conditions that foster student motivation and success.

Convincing Kids They Can Succeed Students want and need work that enables them to demonstrate and improve their sense of themselves as competent and successful human beings. This is the drive toward mastery. But success, while highly valued in our society, can be more or less motivational. People who are highly creative, for example, actually experience failure far more often than success.

Before we can use success to motivate our students to produce high-quality work, we must meet three conditions:

  1. We must clearly articulate the criteria for success and provide clear, immediate, and constructive feedback.
  2. We must show students that the skills they need to be successful are within their grasp by clearly and systematically modeling these skills.
  3. We must help them see success as a valuable aspect of their personalities.

All this seems obvious enough, but it is remarkable how often we fail to meet these conditions for our students. Take skills. Can you remember any crucial skills that you felt you did not successfully master because they were not clearly taught? Was it finding themes in literature? Reading and interpreting primary texts? Thinking through nonroutine math problems? Typically, skills like these are routinely assigned or assumed, rather than systematically modeled or practiced by teachers.

So how can we help students master such skills? When teaching your students to find themes, for example, deliberately model interpretation. Ask your students to give you a poem you have never seen, and then interpret it both for and with them. If they are reading primary texts, use what we call the “main idea” strategy. Teach them how to find the topic (usually a noun or noun phrase), the main idea (a sentence that states the text's position on the topic), and reasons or evidence to support the main idea. If students are concerned about writer's block, remember that perhaps the most difficult task of a teacher is to teach how to think creatively. Model the process of brainstorming, demonstrating that no idea is unworthy of consideration.

These are not revolutionary ideas. They simply illustrate how easily classroom practices can be improved, thus increasing the chance that your students will succeed.

But what of the criteria for success? Teachers define success in many ways. We must not only broaden our definition, but also make sure the definition is clear to everyone. In this way, students will know when they have done a good job, and they will know how to improve their work.

To achieve this clarity, we can present examples of work that illustrate high, average, and low levels of achievement. Such exemplars can significantly motivate students, as well as increase their understanding of their own ability to achieve.

Arousing Curiosity Students want and need work that stimulates their curiosity and awakens their desire for deep understanding. People are naturally curious about a variety of things. Einstein wondered his whole life about the relationships among gravity, space, and electromagnetic radiation. Deborah Tannen, the prominent linguistic psychologist, has spent years pondering the obstacles that prevent men and women from conversing meaningfully.

How can we ensure that our curriculum arouses intense curiosity? By making sure it features two defining characteristics: the information about a topic is fragmentary or contradictory, and the topic relates to students' personal lives.

It is precisely the lack of organization of a body of information that compels us to understand it further. This may explain why textbooks, which are highly organized, rarely arouse student interest. We have stimulated students' curiosity by using a strategy called “mystery.” We confront the class with a problem—for example, “What killed off the dinosaurs?”—and with the actual clues that scientists or historians have used to try to answer that question and others. Clues might include:

  • Mammals survived the changes that killed the dinosaurs.
  • Chickens under stress lay eggs with thinner shells than do chickens not under stress.
  • While flowering plants evolved, dinosaurs increased in population and in number of species.
  • Some flowering plants contain alkaloids.

Students then work together in groups, retracing the steps scientists took in weighing the available evidence to arrive at an explanation. We have seen students work diligently for several days dealing with false hypotheses and red herrings, taking great delight when the solutions begin to emerge.

Encouraging Originality Students want and need work that permits them to express their autonomy and originality, enabling them to discover who they are and who they want to be. Unfortunately, the ways schools traditionally focus on creativity actually thwart the drive toward self-expression. There are several reasons for this.

First, schools frequently design whole programs (art, for example) around projects that teach technique rather than self-expression. Second, very often only students who display the most talent have access to audiences, thus cutting off all other students from feedback and a sense of purpose. Finally, and perhaps most destructive, schools frequently view creativity as a form of play, and thus fail to maintain the high standards and sense of seriousness that make creative work meaningful.

How, then, should self-expression be encouraged? There are several ways.

  • Connect creative projects to students' personal ideas and concerns. One of our favorite teachers begins her study of ceramics by having students examine objects found in the homes of a variety of ancient civilizations. She then asks the class to design a ceramic object that expresses their feeling about their home.
  • Expand what counts as an audience. One of the most successful creative projects we have seen involved an audience of one. Each student in a middle school class was linked to an older member of the community and asked to write that person's “autobiography.”
  • Consider giving students more choice. The medium of expression, for example, is often as important to an artist as the expression itself. What would have happened to the great tradition of American blues if the early musicians were forced to adhere to traditions of European music? This is one more argument for instructional methods that emphasize learning styles, multiple intelligences, and cultural diversity.
  • Use the “abstracting” strategy to help students fully understand a genre and to maintain high standards (Marzano et al. 1992). Too often, students prefer video art to a book because they perceive it as less demanding or requiring less commitment. Teaching students to abstract the essence of a genre will change their perceptions.

Begin by studying examples of high-quality work within a genre (the science-fiction story, poster art, sonnets, frontier diaries, television news programs, and so on). Examine the structure of the works and the standards by which they are judged. Then, ask students to produce their own work in that genre that expresses their own concerns, attempting to meet the high standards embodied in the original work. Finally, have the students ask themselves four questions about their work: How good is my technique? Does my work truly express my own concerns? Does it demonstrate my understanding of the genre in which I am working? Does it successfully relate to its audience?

Some people worry that the stringency of this model might actually block self-expression, but our experience is precisely the opposite. Students' drive toward self-expression is ultimately a drive to produce work that is of value to others. Lower standards work to repress, not to enhance, the creation of high-quality work.

Fostering Peer Relations Students want and need work that will enhance their relationships with people they care about. This drive toward interpersonal involvement is pervasive in all our lives. Further, most of us work hardest on those relationships that are reciprocal—what you have to offer is of value to me, and what I have to offer is of some value to you. In general, unbalanced, nonreciprocal relationships prove transient and fail to generate much energy or interest.

How does this insight apply to life in the classroom? Consider a student's perception of homework. The only relationship that can be advanced through the typical homework assignment is the one between student and teacher. And this relationship is essentially unbalanced. Students do not feel that the teacher needs their knowledge, and the teacher, with possibly 145 students a day, probably isn't seeking a deep relationship either.

But suppose student work is complementary: one student's job is to learn about tortoises, another's is to learn about snakes, and a third student is boning up on lizards. After they do their research, they jointly develop a poster comparing and contrasting these three reptile types. The students actually need one another's knowledge.

Anne Marie Palincsar Brown has applied this “jigsaw” strategy to inner-city students using in-classroom computer networks (Brown et al. 1993). She found that it significantly improved their motivation, reading, and writing. Elizabeth Cohen (1994) builds reciprocal groups by asking students with different talents and abilities to work on one project that requires all of their gifts.

Orchestrating Classroom Performance As teachers, the first thing we should try to “score” is our own performance. Different people value the four goals we have discussed to different degrees in different situations. Which ones are particularly important to you? How does this preference affect the way you run your classroom? By observing and understanding how classroom conditions can create or repress student engagement, we can gradually move toward a more successful, curious, creative, and reciprocal school system.

All students, to some extent, seek mastery, understanding, self-expression, and positive interpersonal relationships. But they are all different as well. Imagine what could happen if we engaged our students in a discussion of these four types of motivation. What might they tell us about themselves and their classrooms? Could we actually teach them to design their own work in ways that match their own unique potential for engagement?

Last, we can score the change process itself. What professional conditions block teachers' motivation? We can redesign staff development to promote understanding and respect among school staff members.

By seeking to break down boundaries between teacher and teacher, teacher and student, student and the learning process, we will learn what students want and need. As a result, more and more teachers may go to bed at night remembering the images of wonder, enthusiasm, and perseverance on the faces of their students.

ReferencesBrown, A., D. Ash, M. Rutherford, K. Nakagawa, A. Gordon, and J. Campione. (1993). “Distributed Expertise in the Classroom.” In Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, edited by G. Salomon. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, E. G. (1994). Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom. 2nd Edition. New York: Teachers College Press.

Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Marzano, R., D. Pickering, D. Arredondo, G. Blackburn, R. Brandt, and C. Moffett. (1992).Dimensions of Learning. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Schlecty, P. (January 1994). “Increasing Student Engagement.” Missouri Leadership Academy.

Sternberg, R. J., and T. I. Lubart. (1995). Defying the Crowd: Cultivating Creativity in a Culture of Conformity. New York: The Free Press.

<![CDATA[What Keeps Students Motivated to Learn?]]>Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:23:24 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/what-keeps-students-motivated-to-learn

Educators have lots of ideas about how to improve education, to better reach learners and to give students the skills they’ll need in college and beyond the classroom. But often those conversations remain between adults. The real test of any idea is in the classroom, though students are rarely asked about what they think about their education.

A panel of seven students attending schools that are part of the “deeper learning” movement gave their perspective on what it means for them to learn and how educators can work to create a school culture that fosters creativity, collaboration, trust, the ability to fail, and perhaps most importantly, one in which students want to participate.


Project-based learning is the norm among these students, but they also have a lot of ideas about what makes a good project work. Students want projects to be integrated across subjects, not separated by discipline. “When it’s integrated, each student can find something they like and everyone can get into it,” said Erina Chavez, a junior at High Tech High North County. “I love when projects are integrated so you can find so many different aspects,” said Daniel Cohen, also a North County junior.

“Treat students like adults. If the students feel like they’re worth it they’ll act more like adults.”Students described an integrated biology and art project that asked them to research the origins of a disease that had significance for them, and to create an art project around it. They took drastically different approaches to researching an illness that ran in their family — from interviewing family members about the experience for a video, to investigating whether stubbornness is genetic.

At first Chavez wasn’t excited about the project, but she ended up enjoying it because she loves art. “All of us found our own solution to the problem and our own answers with the guidance of our teachers,” said another North County junior Paris Gramann. “It was a struggle because we didn’t really know where we were going, but I always find those are the best ones.”

Students were also excited that this project resulted in a real product that they could display. Their work was recognized and displayed at the University of California at San Diego art gallery. “It got really real at the time it moved up to the exhibition,” said Chavez. “It wasn’t something we were just turning in for a grade, but it was something that we could do well and beautifully.”

Middle school students also appreciate those projects where different subjects are integrated. High Tech Middle Chula Vista seventh grader Ana de Almeida Amaral described an integrated humanities and math/science project, when students read Sherlock Holmes, wrote their own versions, and became experts in one aspect of forensics. Together they created a crime scene in their classroom and then taught everyone assembled about a part of the forensics process through a stop animation video.


Students like to know why they’re learning something and they want to access that information through a lens that interests them. “If teachers give broad guidelines for the project and then have students do something they’re interested in it will bring students along the whole time,” said Gramann. “Treat students like adults. If the students feel like they’re worth it they’ll act more like adults.”

Projects can often last for several weeks, so students need motivation to stay engaged and committed to deeply engaging a topic. Authentic choice is one aspect of allowing that to happen. Students on the panel described real choices they make about their education on a daily basis, from which book they’ll read in Humanities to the different topics they want to research. And even though these students sound like natural learners, many of them haven’t always been. They need teachers to show them why they should care about each learning goal.

“If you really let them know, and use real life problems, it will help them understand it and they will feel like it’s worth doing,” said de Almeida Amaral. “The biggest thing that’s necessary is making sure the projects connect to the students,” said Gibran Huerta, a junior at Envision Academy in Oakland. “Teachers tend to give projects and benchmarks and create topics around things that students don’t really connect to.” He was adamant that learning how to connect a topic to oneself is the key to learning. “Throughout middle school you have to develop skills of how things connect to yourself,” he said.


“If you get hands-on and they’re really interacting with what they’re doing, it’s really helpful,” said Trey Lewis, a junior at North County. He’s had teachers that lecture a lot and much prefers doing the work to being told about it. He says it also adds a challenge since most hands-on projects at High Tech High North County are group projects, requiring collaboration, a leadership skill that all students agree isn’t always easy.

“Collaborating productively is a leadership skill at this school,” said Dora Aguilar, a junior at City Arts and Tech, part of the Envision network. She says that while it can be hard, it can also be very rewarding because working with other people allows her to see the project through the eyes of her peers. Other students talked about difficult collaborations too, emphasizing that it runs more smoothly if one group member agrees to keep everyone on track. They also said it gets easier over time as students begin to understand one another’s needs and motivations and can begin to operate as a cohesive group.


The number one thing that students on the panel said makes them want to try hard and succeed is knowing that teachers care about them and are part of the learning journey with them. “I am not the perfect student,” said Aguilar. “What really helped me was the teachers and staff here who showed me that they cared about me. Students can feel that.” She described hating math for most of her life until a good teacher described what she could do with strong math skills in the future. “It got me motivated to learn more and I showed my potential as a student, which I never knew I had,” she said.

Every student reiterated that high expectations and strong support from teachers are crucial. “I feel motivated because the teachers make me feel worth it,” said Gramann. “I feel that I have responsibility and credibility.”

Cohen actually transferred out of High Tech High North County at one point, thinking the school model wasn’t for him. But he quickly came back. “The teachers really do care about us and I think that’s something that makes our school really unique and special,” he said. Others reiterated that feeling connected to school is important to them. “It’s that strong connection between teachers and students that makes students feel like they are at home,” said Huerta. Envision Academy only has 400 students and teachers know all the students by name, contributing to the feeling of “being known.”


Every student on the panel had a story of big failure on an important class project. But because the culture of their schools encourage them to learn from mistakes, they can clearly articulate what they’d do differently next time and even laugh about it. Lewis described a solar oven he made that was working great up until the day of the exhibition when it started falling apart. “When we have projects that go wrong last minute and we have to think on our feet and fix it, I definitely think that’s a mistake that’s going to help me in the future,” he said.

Cohen described presenting a project expecting his group mates to be well prepared and have the correct information. But one student’s research was faulty and Cohen hadn’t seen it until the presentation, putting him in a difficult position. “I know now to check over all my work, always revise, make sure all the work is accurate,” he said.


Project-based learning affords many opportunities for feedback both from teachers and from peers. “Some of the most meaningful feedback I’ve gotten is from students,” said Lewis. Students get used to giving and taking critique daily with each other and hearing it from educators as well. Their ease with it comes from practice and with the awareness that feedback isn’t the end of the process, it’s a part of improving their work.

One tip students offer to educators: When evaluating student work, frame feedback in terms of the learner’s goals instead of referring to the standards. “Goals are more motivating for students to hear,” said Aguilar. While the education policy world may be obsessed with standards, students don’t care about them. They’d rather hear how the skill connects to their lives and interests.

<![CDATA[Classroom Management 101]]>Sat, 10 Jan 2015 17:09:39 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/classroom-management-101Classroom Management 101

                In this NJEA Review article, Tracey Garrett (Rider University) refutes three common myths about classroom management: (a) that it can’t be taught and must be learned by experience; (b) that it’s a bag of tricks; and (c) that it depends on giving students extrinsic rewards. In fact, says Garrett, one of the major success stories of educational research in the 20th century was establishing a set of principles and strategies that can be taught, observed, and emulated. Here’s her take, with a major focus on preventing discipline problems from happening in the first place:

• Develop an organized physical layout for the classroom.

                -Purge the classroom of all unwanted clutter.

                -Personalize the classroom so it communicates information about the teacher and students.

                -Plan pathways to avoid congestion.

                -Plan adequate space for students to line up by the door.

                -Make it clear where materials belong.

                -Provide space for both academic and social tasks.

                -Display students’ work.

                -Involve students in the design of the classroom.

                -Locate the teacher’s desk in an appropriate place.

• Develop clear rules and routines.

-Create 4-6 classroom rules that clearly specify appropriate behavior.

                -Consider involving the students in generating these rules.

                -Write the rules using positive language.

                -Post classroom rules and refer to them as necessary.

                -Develop routines to provide direction about how different classroom tasks are accomplished.

                -Teach and demonstrate classroom rules and routines as specifically as you do academic


Establish caring relationships with and among students.

                -Get to know something personal about each student.

-Be aware of students’ accomplishments and comment on them.

                -Send positive notes, phone calls, or e-mails home.

                -Be sensitive to students’ moods and concerns.

                -Praise more, criticize less.

                -Hold high expectations.

                -Be a “real person.”

                -Maintain a sense of humor.

• Plan and implement engaging instruction.

                -Match the physical layout of the classroom to the teacher’s style.

                -Have all materials organized and ready before the start of each lesson.

                -Establish an attention-getting signal.

                -Adapt content and activities to students’ interests.

                -Ensure students work at the appropriate level of challenge or difficulty.

                -Give students the chance to exercise autonomy and make choices.

                -Give students the opportunity to finish and display their work products.

                -Show enthusiasm for the curriculum

Address discipline issues when they arise.

                -Use nonverbal interventions such as proximity, eye contact, hand signals, and facial expressions

to redirect misbehavior.

                -Ignore minor misbehavior, if possible.

                -Use brief, concise, and specific verbal interventions to redirect misbehavior.

                -Use positive teacher language to tell the student what to do rather than what not to do.

                -Implement logical consequences to help students learn something about why that particular

misbehavior was inappropriate.

“Classroom Management: It’s More Than a Bag of Tricks” by Tracey Garrett in NJEA Review, Oct. 2012 (Vol. 86, p. 17-19), http://bit.ly/Qsy5CV (spotted in Education Digest, May 2012)

<![CDATA[What Students Remember Most About Teachers]]>Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:50:10 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/what-students-remember-most-about-teachersA letter from Edutopia.org
Posted by Lori Gard

Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,

I saw you as you rushed past me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.

“Oh, fine,” you replied.

But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?

You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do. How little time there was to get it all done. I listened. And then I told you this:

I told you to remember that at the end of the day, it’s not about the lesson plan. It’s not about the fancy stuff we teachers make -- the crafts we do, the stories we read, the papers we laminate. No, that’s not really it. That’s not what matters most.

And as I looked at you, wearing all that worry and under all that strain, I said it’s about being there for your kids. Because at the end of the day, most students won’t remember what amazing lesson plans you’ve created. They won’t remember how organized your bulletin boards are. How straight and neat are the desk rows.

No, they’ll not remember that amazing decor you’ve designed.

But they will remember you.

Your kindness. Your empathy. Your care and concern. They’ll remember that you took the time to listen. That you stopped to ask them how they were. How they really were. They’ll remember the personal stories you tell about your life: your home, your pets, your kids. They’ll remember your laugh. They’ll remember that you sat and talked with them while they ate their lunch.

Because at the end of the day, what really matters is YOU. What matters to those kids that sit before you in those little chairs, legs pressed up tight under tables oft too small -- what matters to them is you.

You are that difference in their lives.

And when I looked at you then with tears in your eyes, emotions rising to the surface, and I told you gently to stop trying so hard -- I also reminded you that your own expectations were partly where the stress stemmed. For we who truly care are often far harder on ourselves than our students are willing to be. Because we who truly care are often our own worst enemy. We mentally beat ourselves up for trivial failures. We tell ourselves we’re not enough. We compare ourselves to others. We work ourselves to the bone in the hopes of achieving the perfect lesson plan. The most dynamic activities. The most engaging lecture. The brightest, fanciest furnishings.

Because we want our students to think we’re the very best at what we do and we believe that this status of excellence is achieved merely by doing. But we forget -- and often. Excellence is more readily attained by being.

Being available.
Being kind.
Being compassionate.
Being transparent.
Being real.
Being thoughtful.
Being ourselves.

And of all the students I know who have lauded teachers with the laurels of the highest acclaim, those students have said of those teachers that they cared.

You see, kids can see through to the truth of the matter. And while the flashy stuff can entertain them for a while, it’s the steady constance of empathy that keeps them connected to us. It’s the relationships we build with them. It’s the time we invest. It’s all the little ways we stop and show concern. It’s the love we share with them: of learning. Of life. And most importantly, of people.

And while we continually strive for excellence in our profession as these days of fiscal restraint and heavy top-down demands keep coming at us -- relentless and quick. We need to stay the course. For ourselves and for our students. Because it’s the human touch that really matters.

It’s you, their teacher, that really matters.

So go back to your class and really take a look. See past the behaviors, the issues and the concerns, pressing as they might be. Look beyond the stack of papers on your desk, the line of emails in your queue. Look further than the classrooms of seasoned teachers down the hall. Look. And you will see that it’s there- right inside you. The ability to make an impact. The chance of a lifetime to make a difference in a child’s life. And you can do this now.

Right where you are, just as you are.

Because all you are right now is all you ever need to be for them today. And who you are tomorrow will depend muchon who and what you decide to be today.

It’s in you. I know it is.


That Other Teacher Down the Hall

<![CDATA[Student Choices]]>Mon, 01 Dec 2014 19:18:10 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/student-choiceshttp://www.ohiorc.org/orc_documents/orc/adlit/inperspective/2010-03/in_perspective_2010-03.pdf

I found this article to be helpful when researching student choices. Student choices are very important because it is vital that students feel ownership over their learning. By providing students with guided choices in: how to learn, what to learn, or how to show what they've learned; students are often times more willing to comply with directions because they do not feel forced to complete something. Obviously some situations are not fit for student choices but by incorporating strategies such as: Extension Menu, Tic-tac-toe, Totally Ten, RAFT, and Cubing; we can offer students the opportunity for them to feel like learning is personalized to their interests.

Here are some links for templates on how to use the strategies listed above:

RAFT: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/98734590/RAFT-Assignment-RAFT-Assignment

Extension Menu, Tic-tac-toe, Totally Ten

Page 9 of http://www.ohiorc.org/orc_documents/orc/adlit/inperspective/2010-03/in_perspective_2010-03.pdf


You can personalize this to best fit your class, I have used:

  • 3 in a row any direction
  • Must complete any 5
  • Level the tasks according to blooms (Can set requirements for how many tasks in each row students can complete) 
<![CDATA[How Do We Know When Students Are Engaged?]]>Sat, 08 Nov 2014 22:46:25 GMThttp://thedearbornacademy.weebly.com/student-engagement-article/how-do-we-know-when-students-are-engagedAs an introduction to student engagement, the article "How Do We Know When Students Are Engaged" has been attached below. Please feel free to click on the link for examples of what student engagement looks like for whole group, individual, and small group instruction.
File Size: 16 kb
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Morning Greetings
First thing in the morning, you can physically engage your students with a greeting. Be sure to focus on the student (don't be distracted or multi-task), use eye contact, ask a question, smile!

What if you're too busy right when the students come in? This will happen occasionally, though you should plan in advance and be sure that greeting is a priority for you. But, if you are distracted, be sure your Do Now is on the board, and while the students are working, go to each desk or table and personally greet them.. 

Greeting 4-H
*High 5

Give it a try and see if it makes a difference in your classroom environment.