New Teachers

Understanding & motivation

As a college student studying Elementary Education, I am wonder what are some ways in which we can motivate children to really think about the content for understanding rather than just completion? At my placement currently, we often scaffold students who are having a harder time in classes (such as science) and the students often want us to just give them the answer. We often question them, allowing them to respond, but I am curious as to how we can really motivate them to really engage and think about the content themselves...

Autumn Halbleib
Autumn Halbleib
300 Activity Points

Autumn, I use science journals in my classroom, even as young as 2nd grade! Once a month we do a peer review. Everyone leaves their journals on their table and we rotate around the room. Each student has 3 sticky notes to write on and leave in a journal. They must say something positive. I allow about 15 minutes for this and sometimes they only make it to two other students' journals and that is fine. It allows them to see how others draw, label, take notes, highlight, and keep little  items as a way to recall what they have done. It is also a great tool for when we are wondering about a past experiment or demonstration and students will comment that they found the answer in their journal. For 4th and 5th grade, I tell them in advance that during the last 2 weeks of the school year they will get to teach/co-teach a lesson on something they want to know more about. The journal is a valuable resource to them and basically it is the science book they wrote and created themselves! 

I keep my own science journal each year so that I have an example to show students and when we do peer reviews they will comment sometimes that my entries are not as colorful as they could be. (I write the standards I am addressing and annotate things that need to be improved in my journal.)

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
89384 Activity Points

Hi Autumn -- You raise an interesting question that even teachers of secondary students might have! I taught a graduate level class once where a few students (who were mostly teachers) said that all they wanted to know was what to do to get an A! Students who are used to being told what to do (for completion, as you mentioned) will need scaffolding and support to develop confidence. It sound like you're doing this by questioning and encouragement. One thing that worked when I taught middle school was doing "think alouds" where I modeled the thought processes, deliberately made some mistakes which I corrected without making a big deal, and asked myself questions. It also may help to give students a choice of activities, in which they select the ones they find interesting and meaningful.  Just some thoughts....  -- Mary B.

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
9180 Activity Points

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