Our primary job as teachers is to motivate student learning. If you’re thinking after COVID, that this is almost impossible, I am here for you! Navigating the challenges of in person learning after anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half of virtual learning can be overwhelming. We went from talking to ourselves 70% of the time to delivering lessons, assessing student progress, and navigating increasingly difficult behaviors to name a few. What if I told you there are some simple tricks you can use at the beginning of your day to triple student motivation? Let’s get into it!
How this one simple principle kills student success
Before we start, it’s important to recognize where our students might be feeling stress that we aren’t even aware of. Did you know that the way we do school right now can actually be detrimental to student progress? You may be wondering how this is possible. In a term, context-switching. What is this you ask? It is a phenomenon that occurs in all humans when they switch from one focus to another. When there are multiple things to focus on, context-switching can eat up to 80% of your day.
Now think about your students. They begin the day with morning meeting and whatever greeting, focus, task is assigned to morning meeting. Next, there’s language arts. They learn about the phonics element for the day and then read whatever book is assigned to them in their guided reading. Then their centers can contain even more opportunities to divide their focus.
Switch to math, new ideas, new concept, new expectations. You get the idea. All this context switching means that your students are likely only focusing on 20% of what they’re hearing in any given day. Whoa! Makes a lot of sense as to why you might feel like you’re repeating yourself all the time, right?
So what’s the solution? How can you teach what you need to teach and streamline the process to increase student success? Answer, concept based instruction!
Trick #1: What is concept based instruction?
You may be asking, “What is concept based instruction?” It is when a large percentage of your classroom curriculum is connected by a certain theme or deeper concept. Your vocabulary, reading, and writing are centered around your theme, and when your theme is one of your science or social studies concepts, you get magic! I dabbled in this a bit in my earlier teaching. We had cute themes like teddy bears and the circus, but it was when my themes and vocabulary words came from our content area units that I saw a real difference.
- Have fun
- Be more actively involved
- Develop learning skills more quickly, as each one is connected to and reinforced by the other
- Be more confident and better motivated
- Present fewer discipline problems.
Think about it, you introduce your theme and your students know exactly what they will be learning for that time frame. Imagine asking your students “what are we learning class?” and every single one responds, “citizenship!” or whatever you happen to be learning. Now, you begin the discussion on citizenship, but instead of you talking, you ask them questions.
- What have we learned so far?
- Our word today is team. How is “team” related to citizenship?
- Are any of our other words connected to today’s word?
- Can you make a personal connection?
You walk around the room and notice they are talking about how working as a team makes good citizens. One student says how she is responsible in the classroom, and that shows good citizenship too! Your students are fully engaged in the content and so they are learning, making connections, and building lasting foundations.
Trick #2: How Learning with Songs is the Magical Solution for Young Students
In a study done by the Department of Music at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, it was determined that music has a more successful impact on the brain because of the numerous areas of the brain that are targeted when music is played. Children’s motor, auditory, and limbic systems become engaged when they listen to music. This opens them up to a more meaningful learning experience. This article from the DANA foundation gives great insight regarding all the arts and how they inform cognitive development.
This article from Edutopia says as educators, we want to appropriately challenge each student—encouraging higher-order thinking while meeting state standards. Music is one tool to engage each student and provide a pathway for connections and deeper understanding. Songs are essentially poems, and have a lot of meaning packed into few words.
Because I am so passionate about music in the classroom, I like to add music to my lessons whenever possible. My students love our quality student song about citizenship words for our citizenship theme. My thematic teaching ideas help make the best connections, especially for my unmotivated students. They get so excited to learn the new theme for the week!
I introduced the theme during activities for morning meeting and continue it throughout the day. I introduce and sing the song for citizenship. The song also includes the vocabulary words that I introduce for the week. Singing and clapping syllables are quick and simple ways to incorporate active learning strategies for kids.
Trick #3: Student Talk is One of the Most Important Independent Learning Strategies You Can Use
The game changer in your classroom ultimately becomes independent learning strategies. Once your students are enthusiastically engaged in instruction and you teach them how to work and discover on their own, you will see tremendous progress. I know I personally get really excited about what I’m saying sometimes, and I forget to give my students time to process what I’m saying. Then I start to notice twitching or staring out the window and I get frustrated with my students. I have to reflect and ask myself if I’ve engaged them yet.
Concept Based Instruction in Your Morning Meeting
Remember that core vocabulary? This is where you have an opportunity to set the pace of your entire day and minimize the effects of context-switching. Use your vocabulary in your morning meeting. Have your students use the vocabulary in their greetings to one another. Now you have a focus for your entire day and more importantly, so do your students!
Turn and Talk will Revolutionize Lesson Time
One of the hands-down easiest ways to engage your students is with turn and talk. Raise your hand if you are a fan of asking a whole class question and calling on hands? That’s a great way to engage them, right? Yes, it is a good first step, now you can take it even further. Here’s why:
- Your shy students will be very hesitant to raise their hands, even if they have the right answer. You will be very unlikely to hear from them
- You will spend a LOT of time calling on your students, hearing tangents, or navigating friends who like to tell very long stories
Sound familiar? Instead, utilize Turn and Talk. As you’re delivering your lesson (using your core vocabulary of course), pause and ask your students to discuss. Give them 2-3 minutes to chat. When you get really good at this, you can walk around, participate in conversations, get an even clearer picture of which of your students really understand the material.
Your students love it because everyone gets to talk and feel heard. Every student is engaged simultaneously instead of a few at a time while others sit and listen. Once all your students have had a chance to chat, you can always use extra time to call on individuals if you’d like.
The Perfect Solution to Expand Vocabulary
Now imagine someone took those themes to expand vocabulary, bundled them up, created the words for you, and added music! Well that’s precisely what Daily Concept Builders™ are. The core concept is a 5 or 6 word cluster that factors into a group of coordinating resources. What’s the result? More confident, more engaged, lifelong learners!
We will be sharing some of these concept-based resources during our summer savings sale. We do this sale every year in July with a group of awesome teachers to help teachers start back to school with some new and engaging products for their students.
Starting July 18, we will have new deals each day and we will be giving away 2 $275 TPT gift cards.
Registration for the VIP email group is open until midnight Saturday July 16. CLICK HERE to register
Once registration closes, you can CLICK HERE to join our newsletter and get information when doors open back up next week. As a thank you, you’ll also receive our FREE guide on creating Focused, Enthusiastic, Lifetime Learners without hours of planning or changing your curriculum!
Have a great day!