As we attempt to honor our students’ access to course material (HOPE standard H2), we must keep in mind that our students’ efforts to pay attention can only go so far. There are two main points to consider when designing a classroom environment that engages students’ minds: their motivation and their attention.
Pressley and McCormick (2007) present many factors that can influence a student’s motivation to put forth effort in the classroom. The factor that concerned me most was that of self-efficacy. The authors define self-efficacy as “a learner’s perception of his or her capability of reaching a desired goal or a certain level of performance” (p. 292). When students have the belief that they are able to successfully accomplish a task, they are more motivated to attempt similar tasks in the future. When they are continually unable to accomplish tasks, they are discouraged from attempting such tasks in the future. A student’s belief in their own abilities can change the course of their lives, influencing the decisions they make and where they place their efforts. A way teachers can boost students’ self-confidence in a given subject is to take advantage of the review periods at the beginning of the year. While some might find it dull and repetitive for the students, those struggling with material can have a second chance to understand hard concepts and feel more confident in their ability to perform those tasks.
Medina (2008) designates an entire Brain Rule to attention. Contrary to popular belief, he notes that “attentional ability is not capable of multitasking” (p. 85). While we may think that giving directions for a second activity while students are actively engaged in the first activity would benefit students and cut down on transition time, it actually requires them to shift their attention from their work, then back to their work once instruction is over. This results in a loss of concentration and possibly, as shown in studies, a loss of time and increase in errors. In order to ensure students are paying attention to only one stimulus at a time, teachers should honor the time students have to complete a task before frontloading the next.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY:
H2 – Honor student access to content material. Most general-education classrooms are designed to cater to the majority of learners. These classrooms often need to make specific modifications in order for different types of learners to do their best. For example, in our classroom, we have an English language learner who is not receiving specialized English instruction. She is starting from nearly zero and, in order to make any progress whatsoever, she will need to earn the English language, building her vocabulary and learning how to read. In order for the student to have proper access to the class content, we have been taking her aside to build vocabulary.
Figure 1 shows vocabulary sheets my mentor teacher developed using Richard Scary books from the library. After copying the pages, we whited out the labels. We then laminated these sheets so we can use dry-erase markers on them and reuse them. I realized that, even though we don’t have an ELL specialist in our school, we can still develop resources in order to help our students that need accommodations. It also showed me that, given the right resources, even the students who struggle most can make great strides. Using this method, our student can already identify many classroom items and actions. This allows her to better follow instruction during class and participate when she can. When this participation occurs, she is able to show how much she truly understands. This has been evident in math where, once she understood the numbers and what it meant to take out a pencil or add numbers, she was able to show us that she was up to standard on her math skills.