Showing posts with label motivation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motivation. Show all posts

Sunday, March 14, 2021

If I can't succeed, why try?

Where a child has not found success they will lose motivation.  This will result in loss of self esteem, reduce effort and create a cycle of failure.

This is true of adults too.

It is important that a student believes that they can succeed.  There are many levers that can be used to get a student to develop the understanding that they can succeed.

1. Provide work at level

2. Provide extrinsic motivation to seek success (such as rewards for effort during learning)

3. Develop an appreciation for intrinsic rewards (such as earned praise)

4. Provide a focus for learning (such as developing a career focus)

5. Place students at a similar level that are also seeking to understand a concept

6. Chunk contents into smaller and more easily understood concepts

7. Space practice to encourage retention

8. Provide formative assessment to focus learning on concepts found difficult

9. Develop an appreciation for revision practices (establish cause (study) and effect (do better))

10. Use environmental print (posters etc)

11. Present and repackage information multimodally (visually, aurally, written, orally)

12. Use ICT effectively (this is a topic in itself)

13. Scaffold well (understanding their prior learning)

14. Provide access to practice work

15. Develop an understanding that they have control over what they can learn - they control the effort that they put into learning and the result of that learning.

16. Overcome test anxiety through overlearning 

17. Explicitly teaching how to use a text (how to use a worked example, checking answers, getting to the assessment level questions at the end of exercises, reading ahead, using an index, reading the glossary, identifying hints to worked examples)

18. Developing the confidence to ask questions

19. Checking understanding

20. Using a calm and constructive approach to teaching (especially for trauma, Autism, PTSD, anxious students)

21. Reduce load, focus exposure to practice work (to prevent tiredness and fatigue) - this appears counterintuitive, but a student undergoing high levels of learning will tire quickly overcoming high levels of anxiety - driving them to continue doing pratice work is counterintuitive to a positive learning environment. The trick is to identify when overcoming loafing and when genuine fatigue is being encountered (the student may not know!).

Often, if queried about why a child is not succeeding, the answer given is a lack of resilience.  To my mind this is the effect rather than the cause.  Where "resilience" is the issue, often the steps to allieviating the effect need further examination.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

All students deserve to find success

In our careers we have moments of epiphany.  That moment where you realise that you need to refocus what you are doing or take what you know and apply it in different ways.  Sometimes it's about remembering a concept that you had learned that you had forgotten, sometimes it's synthesized from your learning and in moments of genius it's inspiration and something truly new.

At the moment I'm coming to grips with the idea that school is an experience that every child has once.  A formative experience that has the potential to impact for many years to come.  An experience that is more than content, more than pedagogy, more than social skills, striving for excellence, resilience and a whole heap of other stuff that we fill it with.

It's about a young life finding their way in the world.

How this young person defines themselves is based on their experiences, for the majority of their time from 4 years old to 18 years old in our care.  

Most of the what we teach them is irrelevant 12 years later.  Typing, how to play a sport, woodwork, sewing, calculus, grammar, spelling, greek history, water cycle - 90% of what we teach will not be used again to the detail level it is taught.  The meta learning is important but most is forgotten 25 seconds after assessment.

What is not forgotten is the Dance concert, the kind teacher that noticed them and made a fuss, the excursion to the beach, the carnival where the team won, first love, being bullied, farting on the mat - experiences that helped form young minds.  

This is our biggest job - ensuring that the experiences are positive ones and that we are there to pick them up kindly when they are not positive.  Sometimes we are so focused on "high care, high expectations" we have forgotten what makes school a positive experience for children - experiences to remember.

If a child has positive and formative experiences that make the child an empathic and productive citizen, they have found success. All children deserve to find this success and we need to focus on making this happen.  Measuring this and increasing the quality of experiences to my mind is a better metric of success than any median ATAR score or measures of school attainment.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Games in 2010

I've been playing a few new games this year that have been great fun.

Twilight Struggle is a great two player game that focuses on the events of the cold war. The US and the USSR fight for influence throughout the world in order to gain supremacy. Each game takes about two hours, so I'm not sure about implementation in the classroom, but we're addicted and have been playing for a couple of hours each night. Twilight Struggle is published every couple of years by GMT games and was about $60 pre-ordered over the web.

Three quick games that are great for the classroom are from Fantasy Flight games Silver Line series - Citadels, Condotierre and Colossal Arena. Citadels is a great game for up to 5 (after five it becomes a bit slow), easy to learn and has a great element of backstab and competition. Condotierre is a game about medieval/crusader Italy, where players fight for control of emerging city states. It has a really dinky board but has some real meat in the gameplay that is accessable to students. Colossal Arena is the surprise of the three as the betting mechanic and card flow develops as the game is played. All three of these games can be taught in minutes and promote consideration of strategy for future games. They have a real magnetic quality. Each can be picked up for under $40 online.

Anyone that has played 500 and #$%hole knows that trick and bluff based paired card games can be engaging, strategic and addictive. Tichu (supposedly played by 600 million chinese players every day) is no exception. It has a weird flow and is seemingly random until new strategies emerge the more it is played. I played it with 500 players that were very critical, but I would love to play this more with people that have a more open mind to exploring this game. A tichu deck can be created from a normal deck (and marking up four special cards mahjong, phoenix, dog and dragon). The rules can be found online.

I had a quick game of Sorry Sliders ($15 at Toys r Us) which is a great little dexterity game. Similar to the ending in ludo, players try to reach the end of their target and other players try to eliminate them. It's a great game for the end of a small class or for kids 7-12 on a rainy day.

I found a great new online store - A weird name but he does have a lot of unusual and hard to get games. Ordering was simple and delivery was fast. I was impressed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bit flat

It's hard when the best thing for a school is not the best thing for a bunch of students. The articles on the half cohort floating around best illustrate what happens when budgets rule schools rather than common sense.

It makes everyone a bit flat when good teachers are actively looking for jobs and are uncertain of their future, whilst teachers remaining are put under the microscope as to why they were chosen to stay in lieu of others. I know when I had to dismiss staff I always made it short and sweet, to minimise staff impact. It was always harsh on me this way, but was easier on staff. In schools, decisions may be made mid year, with staff remaining until the end of the year.

Loss of capability is always a concern - as typically teachers are multi-talented and losing someone impacts on class availability. The smaller the school, the lesser the ability to have redundancy and the higher the impact of losing a staff member. This exacerbates the lack of ability to run small class sizes in small schools (50 student cohorts with 10% of students reaching level 3 courses) are bound to make small classes(eg. five students). It raises the question of the appropriateness and equity of most small WA high schools for bright students.

I also think that sometimes we miss that some teachers can really do wonderful things with small groups - the adage that <5 is bad is not always true.

I struggle with advocating for students. I have been criticised for advocating and for not advocating vigorously enough - once for not idetifying loudly enough that students were in the wrong class, on one occasion for raising that potential issues were arising due to changing class availability and on one occasion for raising that I thought that my teaching was sub par for a topic and needed help. Sometimes I understand why some teachers just want to close the door and teach and let others do what needs to be done. I'm glad of this blog, as it allows me an outlet rather than just pursuing what I think needs to be done through action and persuasion.

Those of us specialising in one learning area (such as mathematics) need to examine opportunities for multi-skilling or alternatively find larger schools. It makes it harder to stay focused when you would rather be looking to student improvement and working with a dynamic and motivated team to make it so. Building a good team is difficult and breaking it up for the sake of a couple of dollars is just a tad silly.

On the upside, the limits topic in Saddler 3BMAS is a bit of a doddle - which is great, as I found it difficult when I went through school. I'm not sure if it is just that the text is good or if I'm missing something.

Anyhoo.. time to look forward, find the next idea and drive it onwards. I think year 7 extension programmes are next with some refocusing of the year 8 -12 programmes to tailor them a little better to the cohorts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Board game tragic

Ok, I admit it.. I'm a board game tragic.  During the week I bought Space Hulk, a game I remember from my youth.. It was a game I could never afford, so when it was re-released I picked up a copy.  Reliving your youth.. that's kinda cool....

Then I started playing and became addicted.

Then I bought paint, brushes, turps, primer and then started painting all of the miniatures... and the worst thing is that I've been enjoying it.  What the hell is wrong with me????  Is it curable?

Anyhow, here are some links that lead towards the hobby:
Games Workshop
Board Game Geek
Painting Guide

It leads me to think, if I'm enjoying it (and I'm just a big kid).. could students enjoy it too.  I've been looking at creating after school programmes that could teach students (particularly boys) collaboration, return for effort, work ethic, respect.. Get kids to enjoy school and gain some leverage to encourage them to perform.. These are what I've come up with so far..

Yr 11 mathematics summer school (very successful 5 days during 2008/9 school holidays)
Yr 9 games design workshop (2008 board game/computer programming club for boys)
Yr 8-10 computer game programming in Java (still to run)
Yr 8-10 Warhammer 40k club (miniatures gaming, still to run)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happiness and the mall.

Today I was walking down the mall, baby and wife in tow.  It was a lovely day, baby was gurgling and we had just had a nice lunch in DJ's.  The counterpoint to all this sappy contentedness was the hordes of unhappy people bustling around.  Frowns, heads down, generally needing to be somewhere else.

Sometimes I think we all need to take a look around and enjoy life a bit.  I suppose I have always been lucky, I have fallen into jobs that were fulfilling and challenging or alternatively sought ones that were - but they tended to be all consuming.  Things can change quickly - I had a discussion with the man who was installing something at our house and in discussion he said his daughter died of cancer at age 17.

That would be life stopping. I can't imagine thinking how I would be if that happened to Mackenzie.  It reminds you that we should try and enjoy every moment with our loved ones and seek to find ways of making best of what we have. 

The good times need to be cherished.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Year 10 motivation, Citadels & Singstar

It's been noticed that year 10's can sometimes lack motivation.  Yelling at them can work for awhile (but unfortunately an authoritative style is not my style of teaching). I aim to get them to that point where they want to do well.  Success is a great motivator - but it's hard to achieve meaningful success without some motivation in the first place - a real "Catch 22" situation.  Turning around truanting and disinterested students can be a real challenge.

We have some extrinsic motivators as part of school behaviour management policy - such as the gold note we send home and the reward events at the end of term, but these are generally for the achievers in the school and don't help the unmotivated reach their potential.

So, I thought about it and set about building other motivators into the programme based around their interests.  I discussed with my group that I would run a Singstar competition on the last day of term, if students put in a big effort to work up until then.  I also suggested that if they reached a 50% average on the next test I would buy pizza.  I set about being more positive in class and discussing 'what if's' when students put in more effort.  I started encouraging students to do online tutorials to help themselves achieve higher grades.

Low and behold, in the last week of term, I needed to add desks to my room to hold all the students (I didn't even realise I was short until then as I rarely had a full class - albeit it has been growing with new students all term). Students actively wanted to know when the next test was, turned up on the day, bugged me until they were marked and wanted to know what their marks were! I nearly fell out of my chair.

I've also been trialling a card game "Citadels" with differing groups of students - it has been a hit with kids in the senior school of varying age groups and ability levels - from Ed support to Calc students. It takes about 5 minutes to learn, requires social interaction, forward thinking, decision making and is a bit of fun.  Even the Mrs likes it.

Maybe the ideas have some potential.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Defining students

How students see themselves impacts greatly on their performance. Lately I have been discussing with students how I see them and what that view indicates of their performance.

I have been examining classes and defining students motivational level under four categories: disengaged, coasting, good and determined. Each category is defined as following:

Disengaged: a student that will only complete work under strict supervision or under threat of detention. This is an at risk student that needs further analysis to seek why they are disengaged (personality conflict, lack of ability, reduced prior knowledge, low self confidence, low self esteem, peer issues, home issues, bullying etc.) This student retains very little knowledge and has to relearn each topic on re-presentation of material each year if not re-engaged. Typically there are only a few of these in each class.

Coasting: A student that will complete work if there is nothing better to do. One that does the bare minimum to avoid attention of the teacher. If allowed to develop at their own pace will progress very slowly and have little retention. Typically this can be up to 4-5 students.

Good: A student that does all tasks asked of by the teacher willingly. Is able to answer most questions asked by the teacher but rarely will offer to answer a question unless called upon. Is not disruptive, completes homework, is enthusiastic and asks questions of the teacher when difficulties are encountered. In mid streamed classes this is the majority of students.

Determined: A student that attacks their work and seeks deep understanding actively. This student finds reward in the act of learning, is self motivated and can learn independently. These are the students seeking promotion to higher classes, those working at the level of their ability or the majority of the 'academic' students. The number can vary greatly from class to class and teacher to teacher.

By identifying where a student is and what to do to reach the next higher level students can set goals that would improve their opportunities for success in the subject. It has motivated a range of students to seek improvement and has given areas of discussion to engage parents with.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why I teach..

There are times we wonder why we teach and today I thought to myself, why is it that I teach?

I know that for many of the kids that we work with, they will never understand why we are hard on them and push them to try harder.. why we argue on their behalf.. why we stick our necks on the line with unpopular positions in order to influence change.

I suppose it is because I was one of these kids.. and if someone hadn't pushed me regardless of how I was being a right little shit at times I wouldn't have had all of my worderful life experiences to date.

.. and I owe it to these kids to try and give them those same chances.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Management of teachers

Inspiration is a key element of teaching. Inspiration is contagious and desirable in schools. Maintaining high levels of inspiration is a task that requires knowledge of the teacher, their current capability and their motivation. If the balance is not present the inspiring character burns out, leaves and/or the light goes out.

There are always external factors that contribute to performance requiring emotional support. Ill grandparents, pregnant wives, family members need time and rightly come higher up the priority chain than school needs. As teachers, we must give these things in our spare time, there are no weeks of holidays available to call on in times of need - things just pile up to the next school holidays. I feel for those without partners as they are the primary source of emotional support in most cases.

The ups and downs of professional and academic careers correlate directly to the amount of support available at any point. In teaching, the majority of academic support comes from fellow teachers. If you look carefully at any team you can see those being supported and those supporting. This is a fragile structure, as each teacher needs to be a beacon of light and there is a dwindling supply of these stalwart teachers selflessly providing experience when needed.

We need to understand and monitor the 'expected vs actual' career progression of staff to assist in the creation of a supporting cast of experienced teachers and make the bright lights of our profession brighter and glow for longer. We so often focus on student outcomes but forget to examine why something works and the minor elements that have contributed to their success or failure. When we clearly identify a positive outcome, identify issues and reward contribution, you have an example of leadership at its foremost.

What I find interesting is the poor use of performance management tools in teaching. If I asked senior management of five different schools, 'What inspires (insert name here) on their staff?' I would be surprised to hear answers that related directly to the staff member. I would be even more surprised if they knew that staff member's technical background or desired career path. On the other hand, the top 3 students in year twelve and the professions of last years top five may be more readily recitable. This outlines a key problem in schools today created through central staffing. The lack of coal face staff management and limited experience 'out of school' in true management positions is a key element in the morale issue within our schools. If management does not feel the requirement to understand the needs and wants of staff, providing optimum educational opportunities through inspired leaders for our students will always be a haphazard affair.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Establishing a connection with kids

Being a little fond of gimmicks, I've tried a few measures to connect with the kids. My guitar is a frequent addition during revision periods, I know a bunch of games on Playstation (and have an addiction to Guitar Hero, Singstar and Oblivion) and the Wii (and have another addiction to Mario Kart and the Wii Fit). I play any PC games that aren't FPS (am quite looking forward to Spore). I play a bit of soccer, follow the trials of the local footy teams, play cricket, have been a part of cross country teams, read fantasy fiction, like board games, watch Idol, Scrubs, have watched the first 7 seasons of Buffy, had a V8 commodore, grew up in the area, like modern dance music, remember the 'old school' rap scene first hand, have a history before teaching, can still do a laughable running man in time to music and can mispronouce emo as emu (as sticking your head in the sand is not a subculture). I know what Facebook, mySpace and proxies are.

And talking about all of these works with some kids but the upkeep is a fulltime occupation. The best gimmick I have found is an oldy but a goody.. the 'I'm a big maths dork and I don't have to be cool' line. It's 'like umm, the best thing, EVER!' - I can do whatever I like - dance strange, sing, wear a stupid tie, have green hair, long socks and sandals, anything.. Don't worry - he's just the maths dork.

The best fun of all is during duty sitting with a bunch of popular students. You sit down, they start to freak out and you have a laugh threatening to do this everyday until they improve. It's great and I heartily recommend doing it if you wish to instill a little fear of social decline! If that's not working you can always start talking about who likes who in class.

Entertaining students is not the only path to a great rapport. Another great way is to start a before school maths group for each year group that you teach. This has given us a lot of insight into which students are in the zone and for others given an avenue to ask for more assistance. It also gives whiners no excuse if they fall behind - the morning class is available if they need help!

For those recalcitrants who get sent to my room for faculty isolation, I make sure that the rest of the class has a good time and I refuse to allow the isolated student to engage. When they ask why isn't our class like this - I show them the work that these students get through in a lesson and show how it could be. Many of the younger students assume that more 'familiar' student/teacher rapport that year 11/12 students typically attain is a right, rather than an earned privilege and don't realise that 'respect' is a two way street (although they must be a little slower than normal if it has taken until year 10 to figure it out!).

Peer pressure also works well. If we are doing an activity that the majority enjoys and one student refuses to engage, I'll pack up the whole activity and do board work (copy the following into your book in silence and then complete questions 1-4350). The next time that student is not as quick to use "refusing to participate" as an attention seeking/power play strategy.

Lastly, in upper years I am interested in what their plans are past school. By knowing where students are going can help a lot in establishing relevancy of content. Also knowing their graduation point total (they need to earn 24pts, 'a C average' to graduate) can be a great focal point in the final two terms. The rule is - no work in class, no assistance out of class; no excuses, no extentuating circumstances or whining will change my mind. It's one of the few things I am fixed on as groups of students believing that their issues out of school and their social life ranks the needs of the rest of the class is plainly wrong. Setting work ethic before leaving school is the best lesson we can provide and an equity issue for those that work hard, week in, week out.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I must admit, being a fairly self motivated person, motivating others is not my forte. Many teachers do I much better job than I do - my primary motivational tool is ensuring student see and value success. TEE kids approaching their final exam need a bit more than this, so I had a bit of a think and did the following:

I dug out my old gown and scroll from my degree ceremony. I talked to all of the students about my goals at their age - many were absolutely ridiculous. They then each wrote ten goals of their own. Each wrote theirs on the board and stood in front of it. I took a photo of them in my old gown, cap and sash, with my degree scroll and printed the results on my little photo printer. The results are that they now have a permanent record of their goals in year 12 that more than likely they will keep. They had graduated from my goal setting session.

Hopefully it will motivate them to lift a little higher when needed.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A quick hello!

Hello to those reading!! I quick thank you for the tripling of volume this month to the blog (300 unique visitors or so this month), the public and private comments I have received and the 25% of people that have been interested enough to have a good read and spend a few minutes with my ramblings.

Reflection is something that we all find hard to do regularly. Having it here helps keep up the motivation, I would heartily recommend anyone interested in blogging to have a go and start your own!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Random acts of kindness

I'm a bit of a schmultz when it comes to feel good movies.. we watched Evan almighty (and I appreciated the CGI and maths components of constructing the ark).. but more so it reminded me of the origin of my teaching career.

We don't do it for the money.

We don't do it for ourselves.

We don't do it even for the kids.

We do it because it is the right thing to do.

Each act of kindness, rough justice, happy word, stern word, direction, misdirection, care, truth, lie has the potential to make the world a better place. Who will each of our little wonders turn into to? How will they fit in the grander plan?

I try to live by my Nana's words - the gift is in the giving. If you take pleasure in giving, your next act can cure any ill feeling. Even in the final stages of Alzheimer's, my Nana can still brighten the room with a smile.

..and needless to say teaching is also kind of fun and has its moments.