Godzilla Gazette, 4

Week of September 15, 2014


  • From Grace
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Weekly Events
  • For Your Information

From Grace

Hello, all! I hope you had a beautiful weekend and were able to enjoy the cool, wet weather. I know we still have a little more than a week until we're officially in fall, but this break in hot weather felt like a preview of good things to come. :)

Last week I asked you to think about a number of new things, including which committee(s) you'd like to join. I have finally figured out how to make this work on Edmodo (I think!) and apologize for the slight delay. Below are two ways to join the Mathews group (Not Mathews training). You can use the code or use the link. Once you sign up for the group, there are two posts to help get you started. I know this is a bit different and I thank you for your willingness to go on this new adventure with me. Who knows? We may even find that we like this mode of traveling through our work.

Edmodo Mathews Code: pnj2ab -

Edmodo Mathews Link: https://edmo.do/j/q2pkej

Speaking of traveling, we all know it's a pointless journey unless we're bringing our students along with us. Like last week, today's Reflective Practitioner looks at ways to keep our students engaged in their educational travels. Why is student engagement so important? Last week, a student who has struggled some in the past, shared with Elise why she is doing well this year. After some reflection, she noted that the teacher really worked to make sure there were a variety of activities within any given class period and that movement and choice were incorporated into the lesson. Wow! That is engagement at it's best.

You'll notice that some of the references in the article are for high school - don't let that stop you from gleaning the good stuff about how to differentiate between compliance and engagement and how to make our classrooms places where are students shine. The strategies here are immediately applicable to all levels! I'll be stopping by rooms this week looking specifically for student engagement. I can't wait to see how each of you ensures you're students are right there with you on the journey. :)

Have a beautiful week and always let me know how I can support you.

The Reflective Pracitioner

New Study: Engage Kids With 7x the Effect

AUGUST 25, 2014


In education literature, "engagement" is a lynchpin word, routinely cited as essential. However, authors often leave it undefined or offhandedly provide vague definitions.

So, what is engagement? It depends on whom you ask. In an unpublished study, Shari Steadman and I found that preservice teachers often identified acts of compliance as engagement. Wrote one education major, "Engagement is an agreement between student[s] and teachers to be there and present during class." This unfortunate and quotidian explanation implies that merely breathing and looking at instructors constitutes student engagement. Ruth Schoenbach and Cynthia Greenleaf view the term differently: By adding the word "engaged," we mean to distinguish between the skilled by rote and unsophisticated kind of academic literacy that many "successful" students master, and the more analytic, critical, and discipline specific ways of making meaning emblematic of engaged learners.

Adam Fletcher’s definition is succinct: "Students are engaged when they are attracted to their work, persist despite challenges and obstacles, and take visible delight in accomplishing their work." (PDF, 134KB) To visualize these characteristics occurring all at once, imagine kids playing Minecraft or participating in cooperative classroom games.

But to consider engagement viscerally, we need to refer to its mid-17th century association with battle. Imagine fencers: competitors face off, all senses focused on the micro-adjustments of their opponent's blade as well as their own physical, emotional, and intellectual potential. When fencers lunge, circle, and feint, their fierce ballet is called engagement.

Benefits of Engagement

According to multiple research studies, engaged students . . .

  • Experience improved academic achievement and satisfaction
  • Are more likely to have the capacity to work through academic struggles
  • Earn higher standardized test scores
  • Have better social skills
  • Are less likely to drop out of school.

In contrast, disengagement . . .

  • Lowers cognitive performance
  • Increases disruptive behaviors
  • Causes academic avoidance behaviors
  • Exacerbates learning, behavior, and emotional problems
  • Increases absenteeism and dropout rates.

Regrettably, an overwhelming number of high school students are disengaged and bored with class content. In the early grades, eight out of ten students are engaged. By middle school, the number is six out ten, then four out of ten in high school, according to a 2013 Gallop Poll.

"The drop in student engagement for each year students are in school is our monumental, collective national failure," asserts Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education.

Research-Supported Methods to Engage Students

From The Highly Engaged Classroom (PDF, 388KB), to School Engagement, Disengagement, Learning Supports, & School Climate (PDF, 133KB), to Strengthening Student Engagement, all the books and articles that have been written on the subject of increasing student engagement could fill a gluttonous orca. But Kristy Cooper's insanely rigorous mixed methods study, "Eliciting Engagement in the High School Classroom: A Mixed-Methods Examination of Teaching Practices," published in the April 2014 American Educational Research Journal, does an exceptional job of showing what works.

Cooper, an award-winning researcher at Michigan State University with an MA and Ed.D from Harvard, examined the impact of three well-supported methods that teachers employ to increase student engagement. As you read about each, try to guess which practice had the greatest impact.

Engagement Method #1: Lively Teaching

Involves group work, games, and projects. The emphasis is on the students constructing knowledge, not on the teacher delivering it. Think social and fun.

Engagement Method #2: Academic Rigor

The instructor creates cognitively demanding tasks and environments (called "academic press"), emphasizing that students will need to work hard. The teacher also shows passionate investment in the content. According to research that Cooper cites, students' perception of challenge is a strong predictor of achievement gains.

Engagement Method #3: Connective Instruction

In connective instruction, the teacher helps students make personal connections to the class, content, and learning. The power of connective instruction comes from the instructor helping students see the curriculum as critical to their current lives, their future, and their culture. Additionally, six instructor behaviors play into creating high quality relationships where, according to Andrew Martin, students "actually internalize the beliefs valued by significant others."

  1. Promoting relevance: relating content to students' lives.
  2. Conveying care: understanding learners' perspectives.
  3. Concern for students' well-being: demonstrating knowledge of students' lives.
  4. Providing affirmation: telling students they are capable of doing well; using praise, written feedback, and opportunities for success.
  5. Relating to students through humor: showing that you enjoy working with young people (not as a class, as individuals).
  6. Enabling self-expression: connecting learning and identity by encouraging students' expression of ideas, values, and conceptions of self.

Although lively teaching and academic rigor independently and collectively increase engagement, the single biggest effect, according to Cooper's study, resulted from connective instruction of a magnitude seven times that of the other two well-established practices. Why? Because of kids' desperate longing for high-quality relationships. When a teacher fulfills that desire, students' achievement behaviors and intellectual functioning soars (PDF, 380KB).

For all teachers, regardless of subject or grade level, intensive effort to connect with learners is nonnegotiable -- if you want them engaged.

Tell us how you engage students.

Weekly Events

Monday, September 15, 2014 - C Day

  • International Dot Day! Wear your dots to "Make your Mark!" :)
  • BTEN Meeting - 8:00 am - Art Room - Jennifer, Grace
  • Meeting - 10:00 am - Office - Janie, Grace
  • BTEN Meeting - 10:15 am - Rm. 105 - Sicily, Grace
  • BTEN Meeting - 12:25 pm - Rm. 211 - Chad, Grace
  • HW Center Begins! - 2:45 pm - Library - Brett, Volunteers

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - A Day

  • GT Meeting - 3:00 pm - Ridgetop Elementary - Robin
  • Meeting - 1:45 pm - Rm. 213 - Laura, Grace

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - B Day

  • BTEN Meeting - 10:15 am - Rm. 106 - Monica, Grace
  • BTEN Meeting - 12:25 pm - Rm. 209 - Diana, Grace

Thursday, September 18, 2014 - C Day

  • ARDs - as scheduled - All Required
  • Donalyn Miller Presenation - 8:00 am - Round Rock - Jud
  • Meeting - 10:15 am - Rm. 107 - Cindy, Grace
  • GT Training - 8:30 am - Baker - Robin
  • 504 Training - 12:00 pm - Baker - Robin
  • BTEN Meeting - 3:00-3:15 pm - Library - All
  • Staff Meeting - 3:15-4:15 pm - Library - All

Friday, September 19, 2014 - A Day

  • School-wide Assembly - 7:40 am - Gym - All
  • Summer Reading Celebration - 1:15 pm - Cafeteria - Jud

For Your Information


  • Take attendance every day through TEAMS
  • Ensure 504, IEP, and Gifted Accommodations are being followed
  • Actively supervise your students
  • Please be aware of the heat and make sure your students are staying hydrated and cool during recess
  • Check our calendar for important events
  • Have fun!

Kudos: Do you know of something good? Share it with Grace to be included here or write it in the comments below!

  • To Steve, Amy, Jennifer, Jud, Brett, Anne Marie, and Anna for organizing and running a student CATCH night during Back to School, Part 2
  • To the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teams, Robin, Janie, and Laura for a successful back to school night
  • To Chad and Mary for making sure the school was secured after BTSN
  • To the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teams for working together to support each other and a few students - It truly does take a village
  • To Diana McMillian for hosting a Region XII PreK workshop after school

Upcoming Events:

  • Summer Reading Party - September 19
  • Achieve 3000 Update Meetings - September 23
  • Yoga Yoga Sample Class for Staff - September 24
  • Flu Shot Clinic After School - September 30

Website to Explore:

  • http://tammyworcester.com/tech-tip-of-week/- Weekly technology tips for teachers from a former teacher who now dedicates her time to finding new and helpful technology integration for the classroom. Want to know more about Google Docs? Need student ideas? This site has all that and more. Check it out!