Engaging the Brain

As we spring forward into the final quarter of the academic year, student thoughts turn to their summer activities. Youth athletic leagues begin practicing, preparations are made for the upcoming county fair season, and students are generally out and about later because the sun is shining later into the evenings. All of this makes it challenging for students to remain focused in the classroom. 

So how do we engage students in such a time?  In the article Motivating Students with the Brain in Mind, author Liesl McConchie shares the following (https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/motivating-students-with-the-brain-in-mind):

  1. Reduce demotivators. Fatigue, prior experiences, and school policies (like rigid grading policies) can cause some students stress, and they respond by shutting down upon arrival. Creating a warm environment in which teachers convey care and the belief that every student can learn will help. Examining school policies and creating policies that allow for multiple attempts, individualization, and flexibility can also help. 
  2. Accelerate short-term motivators. Curiosity, anticipation, and relevance have all been shown to increase engagement for periods of time. Build in activities that leverage these. 
  3. Design long-term motivators. At the elementary level, classroom jobs (i.e. line leader) and choice are helpful. At the middle school/junior high level, teaming creates a sense of unity and belonging, which satisfies student needs for affiliation. At the high school level, issue-driven projects that allow for status, mastery, and purpose tend to bring out student engagement. 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can implement some of these ideas. You and your students will be glad you did!

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