While planning this blog, I thought about how I engage my students in discussions and other speaking and listening activities. After reading several articles about engaging students I realized that looking at the bigger picture would give me more answers and teaching tools. Once a child is engaged in learning in general all language skills will naturally thrive.
When I read and think about modern teaching, I often come across the word “partners”. Students and teachers become partners in learning and thinking, partners in change. A partnership requires a special relationship and, in order to establish it, teachers need to develop awareness, understanding and respect for what matters to our students. “A widening awareness of students’ capacities can lead to new excitement about teaching and enrich pedagogic practices.”(Rudduck & McIntyre, 2007)
Involving students as “partners in change” invites us to get to know every student in more dimensions than just the academic, and support students in playing a more active role in their learning.
The key to understanding our students lies in learning more about their identity or identities. In the case of third culture kids and multilingual kids they have several complex ones.
“…ensuring students are listened to and valued and respected for who they are leads to greater student engagement, which, in turn, leads to greater student achievement.” (Cummins, et al.,2005; Flessa et al., 2010; Leithwood, McAdie, Bascia, & Rodrigue, 2006; Willms, Friesen, & Milton, 2009).
It matters how we interact with our students, and we should know each of their strengths, needs and interests. Through feedback and conversation about various aspects of their lives we build up trust and establish an ongoing dialogue with our students. The information that we learn can be built into our lessons and can help create connections between what matters to a student and our unit concepts and content.
Valuing a student’s voice and choice inspires the students investment in learning and encourages questioning and risk-taking. Teachers and students should create a respectful, solution-seeking classroom culture that leads to the co-creation of knowledge that is based on the social realities of students.
Here are some strategies that we employ in ISPP Elementary while setting the stage for student engagement:
- Provoke thinking, stimulate discussion, engage students in dialogue;
- Students engage in productive collaboration;
- Students are taught to provide quality feedback to peers;
- Diversity is valued;
- Social and emotional skills are taught and practiced;
- Students know how to assess their work using success criteria;
- Ensure that learning is enjoyable through the choice of teaching technics and methods.
Engaging students in learning is an ongoing process and when challenges emerge we need to remember a formula for success: Be partners in change, learn about your students’ identities and value their voice.