"You're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way! ~ Dr. Seuss

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sophie's Lesson and Engaging Reluctant Learners Linky Party

This is Sophie, my sister and brother-in-law's 1 year old rescue dog.  They found her abandoned when she was @3 weeks old and gave her a forever home.  Sophie loves to play!  Anywhere!  Anytime!  She has all of the energy you would expect from a young dog.  One of her favorite places to be is in the pool.  However, just like young children, she thinks she can do a lot more that she is able to do.  She gets tired swimming and then may struggle to keep her head above water. Friday night, my sister and I were shopping at BJ's and came across life vests for dogs.  So, my sister bought one to see if it would help Sophie be in the pool safely.   On Saturday, we decided to spend the day in the backyard laying out in the sun and floating in the pool.  Of course, Sophie was included.  They put her vest on and put her in the pool.  She loved it...as long as someone was holding her.  My brother-in-law wanted to see how she swam with it on, so he grabbed the strap along the back of the vest, lifted her away from himself, and put her in the water.  She swam right over to my sister and tried to climb up on her raft. 

Watching all of this made me think of the students I have worked with over the years who,
for whatever reason, are not motivated to learn.  They would rather be just about anywhere else.  They do not yet grasp how critical education is to their future. Many of these children struggle with academic skills and feel defeated, or believe they are too dumb to learn.  Others may come from families that either do not or cannot provide support, encouragement, and accountability. So, how do we reach these students?  I wish their little brains had life vests with handles on the back that I could just grab hold, lift up, and put into a learning activity ( just like my brother-in-law lifted Sophie and put her down in a situation she was unsure about at first).  Imagine how far these little ones would go if we could get them to become  authentically engaged in learning!  
For some of us, school begins in just a few weeks.  Once again, we will be given an amazing group of little ones.  Most of them will be eager to be back at school, confident in themselves and their abilities.  There will be a few in our classes though, who dread the first day of school - believing it is the start of another year of frustration and trouble. 
How do you reach these learners? 
Here are two ways I've used that have had some success.
1. My Choice...Your Choice - Create a chart for each day that lists the assignments and tasks a child must complete that day on one side and a list of activities the child prefers to do on the other side.  For each task completed from My Choice, the child may choose an activity from the Your Choice side.  (I've created an example and posted it below.)

2. Make a Learning Contract with the child.  In the contract, clearly state what the child's responsibilities are along with your responsibilities as his/her teacher.  Then, mutually decide what they child will earn when he/she completes the Learning Contract.  You can do these daily, weekly, etc.

Please link up and share your ideas for engaging ALL students, especially the reluctant ones.  


  1. Love the My Choice, Your Choice. What great motivation =)

    Teach on a Limb

  2. Thanks...and thank you for stopping by. I hope you will link up.

  3. Just found your blog through the newbie blog hop. I'm on break from jury duty so I don't have to much time to look around. I'm eager to read more on your reluctant learners post.

    Glad to be your newest follower
    Kinder Cuties

  4. I love how you've written down the choices instead of just telling the student "If you do this, you get this". I can see this working with some of my functional academics students.

    Oh, How Pintearesting!

  5. Hi, I am in Port St. Lucie, right by the METS stadium. I couldn't reply back from your post, but I wanted to let you know that I got it.
    Jessica. tales-of-a-first-grade-teacher.blogspot.com

  6. I just drove through Pt. St. Lucie last Wed. My cousin and her husband live there.

  7. I found you on the blog hop. I'm your newest follower. If you get a chance visit my blog "Calling Plays in 2nd Grade".

  8. Thanks so much for checking out our blog! The font we use when we post is called crafy girls. We look forward to keeping up with your blog :)

  9. Hi Amy. Come visit my blog again. I answered your question and changed the example. It was way wrong. I'm not sure what happened there.

    Mrs. Flickinger's Butterfly Oasis

  10. That post almost made me cry. :-)
    I'm a new follower!

    Strive to Sparkle

  11. I have 2 furbabies and they swim with us all summer long in the pool. Dewey...the pure bred lab will jump in anywhere he LOVES the water (even when we aren't in the pool) Fletch on the other hand has to have his life jacket on or he will not go in!

    All Things Teachery

  12. Amy-I have some ideas I am going to share and link up a little later- on vacation this week:)
    Leading and Reading

  13. I've heard of others doing something similar to the 'my choice, your choice' but it's basically all choices. The kids get a list of 6 or 7 things and have to do at least three. Everything else is extra credit. I'm not sure how well this would work in reality, but I like the theory. I had a student this year that never wanted to do anything but sleep (7th grader) to the point where, when I was sitting in in school suspension with him because he went home to sleep, He wouldn't even do the ISS work and kept telling me I was being annoying when I would tell him to do it. The triumph for the day was just keeping him awake. Some students are impossible and you have to take the little victories and try to capitalize.
    I have one student who is autistic. She gets to play for 5 minutes for every 20 minutes she spends doing something she doesn't want to, but has to do (going in to the loud gym for instance) however this backfired as she started refusing to do anything but play...

    Maybe after I have more experience I can offer some creative ideas lol.

  14. I like the My Choice Your Choice idea. I do the typical Must Do - May Do with the whole class, but can see how doing individual choices for certain students might serve to engage them if the May Do choices are geared specifically to their personal interests. I had a GATE student who was one of the least academically engaged kids I've ever taught. The only thing that kept him interested in learning was the knowledge that he could work on writing his novel (an amazing piece of work he completed over the course of the year) whenever he successfully completed a task or assignment in the classroom. Find out what makes these reluctant learners tick!