20 Strategies for Motivating Reluctant Learners

Katrina Schwartz highlights the work of Kathy Perez in her recent post “20 Strategies for Motivating Reluctant Learners” via MInd/Shift.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

“She’s a big proponent of brain breaks and getting kids moving around frequently during the day. She reminded educators that most kids’ attention spans are about as long in minutes as their age. So a third-grader can concentrate for about eight minutes before losing interest. It’s a teacher’s job to make sure there are lots of quick, effective brain breaks built into the lesson to give children a moment to re-calibrate. Perez says teachers must be prepared for a diverse cross section of learners with a large toolkit of strategies for teaching in multiple modalities, with many entry points to participation and content.”

I love some of these things that she highlights.  As someone who has taught for years we encounter PLENTY of these students.  The question is:

“Do you let them fall through the cracks or find ways to meet their needs?”

Some of Kathy’s ideas may sound like common sense but I have seen them overlooked hundreds of times.  Here are some of my favorites from her list; are empathize, focus on the ABC’s: acceptance, belonging, and community, give breaks, snowballs, and HOPE!  Another gem in the post is this video: Ned’s Great Eight to Heart.

Five Guidelines to Make School Innovation Successful.

Here is the introduction to the article written by Katrina Schwartz via Mind/Shift.

“Eleven years ago Chris Lehmann and a committed team of educators started Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a public magnet school in Philadelphia that focuses on student inquiry through projects in a community that cultivates a culture of care. The school has been so successful over the last decade that the district has tapped Lehmann to help other schools get started or transform themselves.”

I love the post because it highlights the basics of being a successful innovator and the first guideline is the most important to me.

Simplicity Matters

So many educators, when they decide to take the leap and try something new, attempt to develop the best lesson plan OF ALL TIME.  They want to showcase their new found pedagogy and they forget that doing too much the first time through might set them up for failure.  This is just part of the learning process (and a valuable one at that) because they will learn from their mistakes and it will make them better.  Change is not easy and it is not easy for your students either.  Keep it simple and make sure you provide not only your students to succeed but yourself as well.

The 6th guideline – my addition – is TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE WITH YOUR KIDS.  Prepare them for the change, let them know why your doing it, and sell them on the change!  Why not invest in some time to sell them on the idea first?  If they buy into the process then the chances of it being successful are even better.  I did this frequently as an educator and I found that: my students appreciated it, I was more successful, and most importantly is fostered a strong relationship between my students and myself.  They appreciated me treating them like adults, talking through things, and being a FAMILY.

The Power of Family

How many of you have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of a “family”?  I use the quotations here because the term “family” has MANY variations.  Websters defines a family as: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.  In school this would have a different meaning.  As educators, I believe that if we lead our students as we would lead our own family, relationships will blossom!  James Comer summarizes how the power of relationships will impact learning.

Isn’t this worth investing time in!? I recently had a revelation about the power of family and how it has influenced me.

I am the oldest/2nd oldest, on either side of my family and growing up was taught to provide a great example for my younger family members.  On my dad’s side of the family we have “family dinner” at my grandmother’s house EVERY Sunday.  People miss here and for different reasons but the beauty of this was talking with them about how my week was, what’s new, having a group to support me, etc.

It was here, in these moments, where I always wanted to have something great to say that would make me look good, feel good, but most importantly not disappoint anyone.  I was pretty good at being a role model, I believe, up until I started to disconnect myself from my family.  After college I got married which quickly turned into a divorce.  Suddenly I was no longer confident in my answers to how was your week, what’s new, etc.  I fell into a dark place for almost two years and always found salvation in teaching and my classroom family but was uncomfortable to share with my real family.

Then I met my wife, reconnected with family, created a family of my own (we have 3 beautiful girls), and have a job that I am passionate about.  It has completely restored my drive and desire to be a role model, leader, father, and husband.  I feel like I did when I was 18 but now have weathered some storms and feel stronger in my own skin that I ever have before.  I rediscovered who I am.

“Sooooooooo Justin, great story of redemption but what does this have to do with education?”

I believe that if we build families at school then our students will grow and behave similar to how I do with my own family.  If we want to significantly help our students grow and learn, this occurs with significant relationships.  As teachers, we have the ability to develop a family within our classrooms.  My goal as a teacher was to create an environment where my kids felt safe, appreciated, and most importantly, loved.  In Episode 1 of my podcast Perspectives in Education, I talk with a former student of mine and she reflects on what it was like to be a part of my “family” at school.   It takes time but the benefits are priceless.

I found that my students started to act like me when I was around my family.  They knew that each day I was there to greet them, be there for them, support them, but at the end of the day I was going to ask them how their day was.  They did not want to disappoint me so slowly I started to see growing as they learned more about themselves.  They were taking control of their lives in school, I feel, because of the power of family.  They wanted to share positive stories, try new things, and grow into someone that I and their classmates respected.

This is the power of family.  It is developing a group of people that support, love, believe, and listen to you.  Through these powerful relationships, your students can change, evolve, and grow.  Think back to a teacher that influenced you the most.  What did you love about them?  Did you ever want to disappoint them with behavior, not completing homework, or failing tests?  Odds are you did the best in those classes because of the relationship you built with them.  Don’t you want to be the one that your students still talk about 10, 20, 50 years from now?

Bottom Line

This is your chance!  Cultivate and plant family atmosphere with your students, water them daily with love, empathy, grace, and understanding, provide them a voice, and most importantly LISTEN, and watch your family grow!  It will change your life and the life of your students.  I am confident in it because of seen in first hand and also because family changed mine.



The 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time

In honor of the great Dr. Seuss and his birthday, I wanted to share with you Time Magazine’s list of The 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

Top 5:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are
  2. The Snowy Day
  3. Goodnight Moon
  4. Blueberries For Sal
  5. Little Bear

As a parent to 3 young girls I know the value of reading to them and still find myself struggling to make time.  Some days it is easy but most are HARD!  I was really good at it with my first daughter but have gotten worse over time.  How many of you experience this?

Well today is our day to change.  Today, I am making a pledge to be better and try harder to make sure that I set time aside each day to read to my children.  Who’s with me!?



New Report for Parents and Communities Opens Ideas on What is Possible with Personalized Learning

Susan Patrick shares with us the “New Report for Parents and Communities Opens Ideas on What is Possible with Personalized Learning” via the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Here is the introduction to the article – check it out for the details!

“Teachers, leaders, students and families in communities across the country are coming together to explore how schools can better prepare students to succeed after graduation

Together, they’re exploring big questions such as:

  • What must students know and do to be able to thrive in the modern world?
  • What learning experiences are necessary to ensure students graduate with these skills and traits?
  • How do schools better meet the needs and interests of students by providing personalized pathways toward graduation?
  • How must schools transform in order to create these new learning experiences and opportunities?”

Here is the link to the downloadable PDF!

The Students Have Spoken – Student Perceptions of Flipped Learning

Image borrowed from the article

Interested in the Flipped Learning model?  I have used it in my experiences as an educator and can speak to its power, student buy in, and even parent buy in but in the end… it is just my opinion.

The Flipped Learning global initiative has invested lots of time and money into researching the model and they have found some amazing statistics to support why Flipped Learning is a great solution to dealing with students with disabilities, personalizing learning, and the list goes on.

This post comes directly from their website and highlights the results that one teacher received after asking for feedback.  I will provide introduction but please check out the article for more details!

If these statistics and article motivate you to give it a try, check out the website and start here!


What does a flipped classroom look like at each grade level?

Aaron Sams and Justin Aglio toured schools in Pittsburgh, PA to look for teachers engaged in the Flipped Learning process.  Here is a report on what they found!

The power here is that they did not just focus on 1 grade level either.  The looked at how Flipped Learning is used across grade levels!.

Here are the classrooms that they visited!

  1. Beth Hobbs, third-grade teacher
    Burkett Elementary, Pennsylvania
  2. Rob Baier, seventh-grade math teacher
    Fort Cherry Junior and Senior High School, Pennsylvania
  3. Kalliope Tsipras, high school math teacher
    Brashear High School, Pennsylvania



We Learned A Lot In 2016 About How Preschool Can Help Kids

Pathway to graduation

Image is borrowed from www.npr.org (Chelsea Beck)

Claudio Sanchez provides us with great insights to the benefits of pre-school and the Head Start program in this post.  Here is a preview into what is is about…

“Deborah Phillips, a professor of psychology at Georgetown University, has spent more than a decade studying and tracking children in these programs. Her most recent findings were published in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Her study focused on Tulsa’s biggest Head Start program, which is run by CAP Tulsa, a nonprofit group that serves 3- to 4-year-olds. It looked at how the students in the program were faring years later.

And it found clear benefits for children who had gone through the program. In August, I talked with Phillips and asked her to summarize her findings.”

As someone who currently has a daughter in preschool and one more joining the ranks in the next few years, I LOVE what it has done for her.  My wife is a homemaker, and a great one at that, but preschool is still provided many lessons for my daughter that she does not get at home.  She has grown so much as a young toddler and watching it, her relationships with her teachers, and friendships that she is starting to form is so powerful.

I believe in the power of preschool and other programs designed to support and foster the growth of our young  children, our future, do you?


LeVar Burton: Digital Devices Can Embrace Storytelling


Image borrowed from the article.  (http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/01/levar-burton-digital-devices-can-embrace-storytelling)

Jena Passut interviews LaVar Burton, the former host of the PBS show Reading Rainbow. Check it out here!

I love this quote from the article, “she always had at least two or three books going for her own personal enjoyment. I always saw my mother reading. I got the example from my mother that reading is an important part of the human experience”

This is something that I struggle with as a parent.  I read all the time at work or while I am traveling for work but not much at all while I am home.  If I am, I am reading articles and things on my phone.  Literacy is crucial to the development of our children and I respect how Mr. Burton sees the value that digital devices can play.