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Monday, June 22, 2015

iZone Summer Institute: Engage Me or Enrage Me

My second session at the Summer Institute was also with Dr. LaMarr Shields.

 Engage Me or Enrage Me

This session was about how to keep boys engaged in the classroom. The session mainly addressed the importance of keeping "boys of color" engaged, but he did make the point that all boys are basically wired the same way, and these techniques can, and should, be used across the board.

Dr. Shields shared a lot of statistics about the drop out rate of black and Latino males. From what I can remember, (and I hate that I didn't get this written down) roughly half of black and Latino males will drop out of school before graduation, and, of the half who stay, only around half of them will go on to higher education.
So, for those of you with simple math minds like me, of 100 black and Latino males only 50 will graduate, and 25 of the 50 will maybe go to college. That's just sad.

Again, I don't want to share all of Dr. Shields' strategies since this is how he makes his living. So, I chose a few highlights from this session.

General Strategies: For School-Wide Implementation
  • Parental Involvement
  • School Outreach
  • Better Teacher and Staff Training (I think this is extremely important!)
  • Male Mentors and Instructors (CHES has a mentor program called Boys to Men that has benefited our male students this past year. I hope it gets to continue!)
  • Extracurricular Activities
Specific Strategies: For Classroom Implementation
Dr. Shields provided us a list of 52 tips. You read that right- 52!!  I'm giving you the 5 that he covered today. At the end of this post, there's a link to where you can find posters for 8 of them. All of the tips were provided by The Cambio Group and Dr. Shields' website.

I hate Dora the Explorer. I find the show extremely annoying. Have you heard the map song? Just that song alone is enough to make me want to tear my hair out. Seriously.

So, why do I even bring it up? Because when it comes to boys, you need to give directions like Dora. When Dora goes on an adventure, she uses no more than 3 simple directions, and she repeats them until they are imprinted in her brain.
Oh, you're going to the erupting volcano with your purple monkey, singing backpack, and obnoxious map, are you, Dora? How you going to get there?
  1. River!
  2. Forest!
  3. Volcano!
Then she repeats the 3 directions in a sing-song voice until she can remember it. She must cross the river, walk through the forest, then she's at the volcano!

Teachers, do this in your classroom! Parents, do this at home! Simple directions.
In my classroom I'll write the directions on the board simply as well, with pictures if possible. I'll model the expectations as well, but I'm not going to over load my board with superfluous words.

1. Cut!
2. Sort!
3. Glue!

First you cut the words out, then sort them on your page, then glue them in place! Done!

p.s. And when they get it right- PRAISE THEM! Even small successes deserve praise!

Not only does having them repeat instructions make them actively involved in class, it also lets them "play teacher". In my classroom, this looks like me giving the simple directions (see above), then students get into "teacher position" (hands on hips and pointer finger up) and they repeat the directions to a partner.
Yes, I am an elementary teacher. I actually have no idea if that particular action would work in upper grades. But, I will tell you that my students, boys included, think it's hilarious to pretend to be "teacher" or "bossy momma".

Dr. Shields recommends having students practice Deep Listening. Closing their eyes, holding their hands palms up, and focusing on their breathing.  Yes, they will need to practice this. Yes, they will pretend to be Buddhist monks or doing crazy yoga. But, eventually, they will learn to quiet their bodies (at least for a moment) in order to focus on certain tasks- like listening to you. Once they are focused, they can listen to instructions and properly mirror them back to you.

By having students mirror back instructions you're checking to see that they understand the expectations of a certain task. If they can repeat it, that means they heard it.

Boys, much more so than girls, need movement. Blame it on their wiring, but boys have the need to move like girls have the need to talk. I see it everyday in my classroom, and also at home with my 2 sons. They. Can't. Sit. Still. 

They tap, stand, walk, itch, whatever!! I'm not a stickler for sitting, as long as you're not in the way of someone's view of the board. You can stand next to your seat, sit through your seat, sit on your knees in the seat, whatever; just be able to keep up with the lesson.

With this in mind, why would we expect boys to be able to stand perfectly still when being disciplined?

Discipline doesn't have to be harsh. It had a bad stigma, but discipline is just a way of redirecting or refocusing a behavior.

When thinking of your boys, allow for movement. Maybe a Walk-and-Talk, which makes it feel like more of a conversation.
If possible, try to make discipline private: in the hallway, quietly at the student's desk, maybe even nonverbal. (Give them the Teacher Look)
For my younger son, I have to hold his hands. He stands in front of me, places his hands on top of mine, looks me in the eye, and we talk. His feet and hips may still be swaying to his inner beat, but I have his hands and eyes.

When the talk is over, go back to the previous tip: Have them repeat the instructions. Make sure they are walking away from the conversation with a sense of direction and expectation.

Boys are always on the move, remember? That means their eyeballs too. Give them something to focus on.
I've done a book study on the book Teach Like a Pirate.

It's a fabulous book all about  different teaching "Hooks" to use in the classroom. Every "Hook" gets teachers moving, and students' attention. I highly suggest reading this book before walking into your classroom again this fall. It's mainly geared toward middle and high school, but this elementary teacher gleaned A LOT of information and strategies.

Not only is teacher movement good for grabbing student attention, it's also good for observation. A college professor once told my class, "A teacher on her feet is worth 10 on her seat."
The only thing to be gained by constantly sitting is another pant size. GET UP. See what your students are doing. Observe class discussions, peer editing, think-pair-share, and independent work. Take notes, keep records.

Cause, you know, it's YOUR JOB.

And not just your body- make students use theirs as well! Do yourself a favor and Youtube "Whole Brain Teaching", then click on your grade level. There are videos galore of students learning new concepts by engaging their whole bodies into the lesson.

Yes, it's a little weird at first. It takes time and LOTS of modeling. But many teachers swear by its technique.

If you find that it's still a little too weird for you, then go small: rhythm and rhyme.

Remember the movie Akeelah and the Bee? Akeelah learned to spell by tapping her hands on her legs. She used the rhythm of spelling to help her. When they told her to stop tapping, she became lost. Don't take that away from your students! Encourage it and use it to your own purposes!

In my classroom, when I teach the parts of a plant, we use the song Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.
Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots- stems and roots!
Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots- stems and roots!
Stems and roots!
Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots- stems and roots!

When we sing "flowers" we have hands on our heads, "leaves" we shake our arms, "stems" we pat our legs, and "roots" we touch our toes. 

We use songs and jingles a LOT in my class. For everything. I give them copies of the songs and jingles to keep for reference in their journals. During tests you'll see kids bopping in their seats, quietly singing the songs. That's cool with me.

We also use a lot of picture vocabulary, especially in science and social studies. Whatever works. Engagement is the key. Get the kids moving!


The biggest take-away from this session, for me, was that our male students just don't feel connected to their learning. They might not see the point of certain lessons because they can't see themselves using the knowledge later in life. 
Or maybe they don't see the point in trying, period. They've been told they can't, so they won't. 

Please, teachers, don't let this happen in your classroom. Be the teacher who is willing to connect and engage students, especially the boys of color. An engaged student is focused on learning, not on being a disruption. Use all the tricks in your teacher bag to make sure your students are actively learning. 

Thank you, Dr. Shields for all you're doing in the world of education! Keep up the good work!

If you'd like a copy of the Engage Me or Enrage Me Posters (8 total), click HERE!

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