How can you motivate your students? (Part 2)

Last week I shared a TED Talk by Daniel Pink.  If you haven’t watched it yet, take a little time to watch it.  You can scroll down to the post below, and then come back to here.

Sometimes the things that we believe will motivate us actually hold back creativity.
Sometimes the things that we believe will motivate us actually hold back creativity.

How many times have you tried to incentivize your students?  You let them all know that “if you do this, then you’ll get this…”  Whatever you offer is something that you just know that your students will love, and yet they don’t fulfill your expectation, or you get a negative response.  What I love about Pink’s talk is that he realizes that since rewards and punishments often don’t work, he shares some ideas that do work.  What his research shows is that appealing to deeper motivations like autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the key.  Here’s how he defines each:

  • Autonomy: “the urge to direct our own lives.”
  • Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters.”
  • Purpose: “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

So, how do we take these ideas and use them to help motivate our students?

Control leads to compliance;autonomy leads to engagement.Autonomy: When I was in high school, I took science all 4 years.  Biology was probably my least favorite, and Physics was the best.  The difference was not so much the subject matter, but rather the way that we learned.  My biology classroom had 30 desks with attached chairs.  It was difficult to manipulate the space, and we were always told at the end of the class to be sure that our desks were lined up correctly (she had permanent marker outlines on the tile floor for the location of every piece of furniture in the room).  On the other hand, my physics classroom was in a giant lab setting.  There were lab tables at the back, and desks arranged in groups at the front.  We didn’t have assigned seats, and could sit where we wanted every day.  I didn’t always sit in the same place, my choice depended on what we were doing.

The more choice we provide our students, the more engaged they will be (think about the HSE21 Best Practice Model – there is a whole section on Student Choice).  Look for any way you can to allow your students to have autonomy in their learning and they will be much more motivated to learn!  If you keep the goal of learning the focus, there are hundreds, if not thousands of digital tools that allow our students to reach our main objectives.  It may take a little longer to grade if everyone’s project is different, but where in the real world is every member of a team expected to produce an identical product?

The process... The journey...
The process… The journey…

Mastery: Historically it was the role of the teacher or educator to be the master of all information in the classroom – think back to an earlier post on Gatekeepers and Travel Guides – but anymore our students may be masters of some of the technology that we have them using, while we are still learning.  It can be uncomfortable to admit that students know more about something than we do, but in this day and age, anyone can be a master of anything.

Allow your students to be the masters sometimes.  If there is someone who figured a new idea out with a tech tool, allow them to share with the class.  We as teachers can become the learners right along with our students.  What if we allowed that student to present during a staff meeting?  Think of how empowering that would be from the student’s perspective!

It's all about the purpose!
It’s all about the purpose!

Purpose: If students feel that the only reason they have to learn your material is to pass a test, that does not help the student feel like they are contributing to “something larger than themselves.”  What if their learning was part of a service project to help others?  Or what if their project solved a problem here at our school, or in our city?  Have your students find how what they are learning can connect to a local need, and they will see purpose in what they learn.

Another way to think about motivation is through the Six C’s of Engagement (Choice, Collaboration, Connection, Challenge, Communication, and Commotion).  If you want to see more, click here.  If you want your students to truly be motivated, use some of the strategies here to move beyond consequences and punishments, and move to a realm of true motivation!

What are some of your most successful motivation strategies?  Share below so that we can all have more ideas!


How can you motivate your students?

Sometimes teaching is a bit like selling! Through effective motivational strategies, we can help to flip that switch!
Sometimes teaching is a bit like selling! Through effective motivational strategies, we can help to flip that switch!

This week I am going to simply post a TED Talk by Daniel Pink called “The Puzzle of Motivation.”  I have watched this Ted Talk several times.  I first heard an interview of Pink during a podcast called TED Radio Hour.  The show was called “The Money Paradox,” and talked about money’s ability, and sometimes inability, to motivate people.  The talk is 18 minutes in length, and while Pink speaks mostly about business and sales, his ideas about motivation can easily translate to our students here at RSI.  As you watch this TED Talk, be thinking about what surprises you about Pink’s research and ideas on motivation.  I know there were several things that initially challenged my own thoughts.  Next week’s post will follow up on this TED Talk.

Share with your community

Every time that I moved to a new subject area, I relied on the teachers around me who had already been in the subject to help me figure out where to get started.  There are some of you in this building that I borrowed (or maybe stole) to the benefit of my students.  More important than taking in is the willingness to share out.  With Office 365 and Blackboard, I know that many of you are already sharing within the building, however as you build connections with the world beyond these 4 walls, you can share them out with others.

Sharing KnowledgeIn Ditch that Textbook, Matt Miller says “The one thing that teachers can do to make this unprecedented collaborative community more powerful is to share.”  Some of you may have your doubts about this – you may think you don’t have anything to share, you don’t know how to best share, and most of all you don’t have time.  I would suggest picking a way that works for you – Twitter is easy to start using and make quick connections through the use of hashtags.  We all have different perspectives based on our own experiences, and any of us can talk about our experiences, content, success, failure, etc.  As for time, start small – a short blog post once a week about your classroom successes, and a Twitter account to follow a few educators that you can check for 5 minutes a day.  Instead of taking the time to come up with an excuse, you could find a way to share.

share-buttonThe two easiest way to share:

  • Pass your best ideas around with colleagues – each time you come up with something new, share it with your PLC, your teammates, or the whole school. If you gain something at a conference, pass it on.  Inspiration is infectious!
  • Start a blog – basically a blog is like an online journal. You can post your ideas, and others can read and comment on them.  I love, and set my blog up in about 5 minutes.  Write about what you know.  The time you take writing causes you to reflect on what you are doing

Nye SharingHow have you benefitted from the things others have shared with you?  What have you shared in the past that others have benefitted from?  Share in the comments below!

10 Things to Know About the SAT (and how that could translate for other grade levels)

SATA couple weeks ago I was in a meeting with all the secondary assistant principals in our district.  While we spent the first half of the meeting discussing things that are normally within the realm of the AP (school safety, student assistance and support, student attendance, etc.), we spent the second half of the meeting with our Director of Secondary Education.  One of the things we looked at during that meeting was a list of 10 Things to Tell Students About the Redesigned SAT.  While the students in my building are not taking the SAT, there were some great takeaways that could apply to teaching and learning at all levels.  This list comes from a presentation that Laurie Ferry of CIESC gave to some of the secondary teachers in our district.  Hopefully this list will allow you to think about the skills and needs that our students will have in the future as we prepare them to move forward in their education.

10 Things About the SAT:

  1. Register/Sign-up for Khan Academy – The College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy to offer SAT practice with the new exam, and the best part – it’s Free!!!  If your students are not yet taking the SAT, that may not sound valuable, there are some other cool things that Khan could offer you.  In the NWEA support section there is a series of documents that have been correlations between MAP sub-goals and RIT ranges to Khan Academy exercises.  If you don’t know much about Khan, ask around – many teachers have dipped their toes into the water with it.  Check out the correlations here: MAP to Khan Academy.
  2. Use evidence to support your arguments – Many of us work on this strategy in class, but we must keep working on it, especially in nonfiction reading.  Always encourage your students to go back to the text and think about where they found the information to support their thinking.
  3. Build your reading stamina – The only way to grow reading stamina is to spend time reading.  One of the important things about building stamina – the text needs to be self selected and high interest.  As you get to know your students, you will be able to help them select reading that is not only appropriate, but also interesting for them.
  4. Always analyze the informational graphics – When you are doing nonfiction reading in class, do you have text with lots of informational graphics?  The new test does, and questions will relate to information shared in those graphics.  Make sure you are taking the time in your class to analyze those graphics.  Don’t have a lot of text with informational graphics?  Start looking for some!  USA Today could be a great teaching tools.  If you haven’t picked it up in a while, you may not know this, but it is full of great informational graphics to go with the articles you find.
  5. Get excited about the U.S. Founding Documents – On the College Board website, it says “The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the newly redesigned SAT embodies the College Board’s firm commitment to the idea that all students should be asked routinely to engage with texts worthy of close attention and careful analysis… nowhere it is more evident than in the Reading Test’s inclusion of U.S. founding documents and texts from the Great Global Conversation.”  Even at younger levels, be looking for ways to integrate readings of primary source documents into your instruction.  The sooner we begin analyzing text like this, the more successful students will become.
  6. Practice editing – On the new SAT in the writing and language portion, students will look at a passage of writing to consider how they might revise the piece to improve the expression of ideas.  In other questions, you may have to edit to correct errors in sentence structure, usage, or punctuation.
  7. Put away the calculators (some of the time) – This has a two part purpose.  First, students need to become adept at figuring out when the math is simple enough that the calculator is not actually necessary, thereby decreasing the time spent on the problem.  Students will need to be able to analyze the question to understand how much effort actually needs to go into the question.  Second, the new tests limit the use of calculators on the math portion of the test, which means our students will need to be able to solve a variety of problems without the help of a calculator.
  8. Check your answers – Students need to take the time to analyze their work and be certain that the answer they have provided actually answers the questions asked.  Encourage your students to review their work to be sure that they are correct.
  9. Answer every question on the test – This is not just about finishing, but about time management.  Part of the test will actually challenge our students to analyze a question and decide how much time actually needs to be spent on it.  There will be problems and questions with really dense text, but the problem or question at the end will be really simple to answer.  Students can’t spend long periods of time on the “simple” questions.
  10. Take the SAT – With tests like the SAT, the more times you take it, the better you are likely to do.  Start integrating sample questions and problems from these types of tests as a problem of the day or problem of the week so that students can see they types of questions that will appear.  This will allow our students to learn how to attack the types of problems they are likely to see on the test.  Think how excited your younger students would be to have “solved” a problem from a test that high school kids will be taking.

Obviously, this is just a list of thoughts and ideas based on the thoughts of others and my understanding.  As you gain understandings and insights on this, let us know about your thinking.  Share with us the insights you have made while reading this post in the comments below.  If these ideas have challenged, changed, of confirmed your thinking, let us know that too!

Be a Connected Educator (Part 2)

In last week’s post I shared a little about the value that connectedness can provide to educators.  This week I want to share some of the ways that you can use social media for personalized PD.  As I shared last week, online educator communities provide you with 24/7 access to people, ideas, resources, philosophies, and opportunities that can expand your world (and the world of our students).  So here are some of the reasons I get excited to connect online:

  • Inspiration: Many of the new things that I try here at school are because of something I have learned through a tweet, blog post, or somewhere online.
  • Motivation: Several of the twitter accounts I follow are educators who love to tweet out pictures and quotes that motivate me to try to be better. That little bit of motivation can be such an awesome help!
  • Challenge: I intentionally follow some people because they have different opinions than me. I do this because I want to have a full background.  Every once in a while something that someone shares truly challenges my thinking in a way that makes me reflect on my beliefs.
  • Camaraderie: I have been able to find connections with many other teachers and administrators all over the country/world!
  • Apps: You can use your digital connections to learn about new apps for a specific purpose, or ideas for better ways to use the apps you already have.
  • Humor: Just like our Friday funnies, there are funny things that happen in schools every day. Some of those things show up in my timeline and give me the opportunity to laugh.
  • Collaboration: Through online connections you can work with almost anyone in the world. You can find teachers all over the world teaching the same material, and create connections that allow you to learn from them, and they can learn from you.

So how do we connect?  And how do we find the time?  That’s total up to you, but there are a couple of options that you could try, and the amount of effort you put into them is totally up to you!

Our connections on social media allow us to connect with educators like never before!  Matt Miller -
Our connections on social media allow us to connect with educators like never before!
Matt Miller –

Social Media: For me, this is the best way to connect.  Twitter is my favorite choice, but Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are good ones as well.  My favorite thing about Twitter is that every post is 140 characters or less.  It’s amazing how much info can be packed into such a short amount of space.  The biggest thing to know on Twitter is how to use a hashtag.  A couple of my favorites are #edchat and #edtech.  Tons of great ideas get shared, and if you post something with one of those hashtags, you will get a ton of people to see your post.  (For more education hashtags, take a look at the links in last week’s post)

Blogs: There are thousands of blogs about education out there!  Most of my favorite blogs that I follow are because of connections I have made on Twitter.  I use as an RSS aggregator that keeps all my blogs in one place.  Each time a new blog that I follow posts, it shows up in my feed.  When I have time, I’ll peek at it.  If my day is too busy, I’ll skip it.  Feedly can also help you find other blogs based on topics you are interested in.  In addition to reading blogs, you can also start writing a blog.  Share the things you know – creation is one of the highest levels of thinking.  It can also be a huge time commitment – these posts don’t write themselves!  Some post daily, some are a few days a week, some are less regular than that.

Being a connected educator will make it easier to transform education in your classroom.  You will find new ideas, you will be able to ask questions, and you will be able to share your own thinking and give back to the community!  Invest the time that makes sense to you.  There are days I don’t get on Twitter at all, and there are days where I have extra time and might spend an hour or two reading, adding, and building connections.

What tools have allowed you to connect and change the way you teach?  Share with the rest of us below!