Category Archives: Motivation

Vlog: Focusing on student engagement

This is a vlog post regarding student engagement and motivation in the classroom, as well as outlining my plans to help increase class participation.

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Filed under Classroom management, Education, English, Motivation, Personal, Student Teaching, Students, Teaching

The need to read difficult texts

Over the summer, I had this post about the struggles of teaching a difficult text. You can read a little more about my questions and thoughts in that blog post, but I want to draw attention to something that a friend of mine and current teacher made in one of the comments for that post. I bring this up because, while teaching seniors this year, I’ve run into students who won’t do the readings for class discussion because they find the text too difficult. Now, that post back in July was actually more about teaching “dangerous” texts as opposed to “difficult” texts. But what Sean said in the comments stuck out to me as I was thinking through some issues with student motivation when it comes to reading:

On another note, was “teaching this book” how this was worded as you discussed in class? That is how I remember the verbiage in my Pitt Ed classes as well. But, since I have been in the classroom my mindset has focused more on the text as a vehicle to teach skills. The difference may seem subtle linguistically, but has serious pedagogical implications for one’s approach to planning and teaching.

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Filed under Education, English, Motivation, Personal, Reading, Student Teaching, Students, Teaching

Overcoming Beowulf

Quite an interesting week at my placement as we started Beowulf on Monday. There’s no question that Beowulf is a difficult text – for seniors and myself. I find myself having to do quick Google searches for definitions of words, even if I’m reading a modern translation. So, it’s not uncommon for student to lack the motivation to read such a text that is so foreign to them. But the goal, here, is to get them to read these texts because they will encounter them as they move into college and later into their field of work. It’s about teaching the themes and having them gain knowledge on Beowulf and the Old English culture just as much as it’s about teaching them the skills to read, comprehend and interpret difficult texts.

As a teacher, though, that’s a hard concept to get across. So often – and I’m guilty of it as well – any time a student comes across a text that they can’t understand on the first read or even just by “judging” the text to difficult, they’ll just put it aside and claim it’s meaningless and pointless to attempt to read something like Beowulf. What my mentor teacher and I, then, have been working on is encouraging student to read it once and not to cast it aside because it seems impossible to understand. We want them to come into class the next day with questions about the text and their interpretation of certain parts of the reading. Then, as a class, we’ll work through it together. This week we focused heavily on close readings, partner conversation, small group discussion and whole group discussion to come to an understanding of the text from a comprehension standpoint as well as an investigative standpoint (the “why” is something included and “what” does it mean discussion). I’d have my students look at passage of Beowulf, read it to themselves and think about what it’s saying. Then, they might talk to a partner or other students at the their table before I’d bring it back to a whole class discussion where we could combine ideas and figure things out together.

Needless to say, we were able to get a majority of the students to do the reading and jump in on discussion. For my periods, especially, I was amazed at the amount of participation from all students in the classroom. They seemed genuinely interested to reach conclusions and find out what happened next. It makes for some good days.

Tomorrow evening, I hope to make a quick follow-up post with some activities and ideas that my mentor shared with me that do two things: checks that students are actually reading; and marks a place that can kickstart discussion.


Filed under Education, English, Lesson, Lesson planning, Motivation, Personal, Reading, Student Teaching, Students, Teaching

Student motivation: Part I

I was going to title this something like “Who to blame when it comes to student motivation,” but the word “blame” seemed too negative. And I couldn’t think of anything creative because I thought it might take away from the seriousness of the issue: student motivation is tough thing to master. That is, if it can ever be mastered.

Note: this entire post is going to be sporadic and jumpy because I can’t even begin to grasp the concept of student motivation. This post is merely just a way for me to complicate and problematize my understanding of student motivation.

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Filed under Accessing Prior Knowledge, Classroom management, Education, English, Lesson, Lesson planning, Motivation, Personal, Prior Knowledge, Student Teaching, Teaching

Telling students about the learning process

Been awhile since my last post, but things are going great. I’ve been observed quite a few times already by both my university supervisor and my mentor. And they both thing I’m progressing at a rapid rate, which is a good thing. I’m getting more comfortable in the classroom, the students are actually enjoying my lessons and I’m starting to feel more accepted with school faculty. Needless to say, it’s going great – even if it is overwhelming at times.

But there’s something that I’m pretty sure got brought up in my practicum class this week. And if it didn’t exactly get brought up, I was thinking about it during one of the discussions. Basically, the practicum class is designed for us pre-service teachers to learn, talk and discuss about high-leverage practices (HLPs) in the classroom. We learn about 4 throughout this fall semester and are responsible for implementing it into our classroom, videotaping the lesson and sharing it with our peers. The four are “building a literacy community,” “accessing prior knowledge,” “collaborative learning,” and “modeling.” A lot of these practices should be intertwined with each other and carried out throughout the school year, not necessarily implemented once to try it out and forget about it.

Recently, I did a lesson aimed at accessing prior knowledge (APK) in students.

But let’s get back to the question that I haven’t even mentioned yet. These HLPs deal directly with student learning. We, as teachers, use these practices to maximize student motivation, learning and achievement. Most of the time, the students don’t even know the specifics of how they are learning. Yes, they may get that feeling that they’ve learned something or, as I’ve seen plastered throughout English education books, “made meaning.” But do the know the process that went into learning (or meaning making)? Continue reading

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Filed under Accessing Prior Knowledge, Class assignment, Classroom management, Education, English, Lesson, Lesson planning, Motivation, Personal, Prior Knowledge, Student Teaching, Students, Teaching

Motivating students to do their homework, to read

Today, I had this tweet about my students not doing their homework and reading. A little background: it’s a college in the high school classroom. So, basically, students are expected to do the college amount of reading (say, on average, about 7 pages, single-spaced on printer paper) 3-4 nights per week. Then, the class is supposed to hop into good, informative discussion that promotes high-level thinking for the students. You know, like those good literature classes you had in college.

And right now, the students are in the classics. They just finished Homer’s Odyssey and are now working on the Iliad.

That discussion, then, where students are complicating their thoughts and clashing and sharing ideas with other students doesn’t happen often. If they don’t read, then there is nothing to push them to think about the text. And if they’re not thinking about that text because they didn’t read, then they’re not going to be able to complicate their classmates’ ideas. It’s a sad cause-and-effect that I’m sure tortures many teachers who run into this problem.

But what is the solution? Continue reading

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Filed under Class assignment, Classroom management, Education, English, Lesson, Lesson planning, Literacy community, Motivation, Personal, Reading, Students