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Keeping Kids Engaged

It's not just parents who fear the phrase, "I'm bored!" Educators want their students engaged in meaningful and engaging learning.

Every year my husband and I host Thanksgiving for our families. It’s one of the few times my niece and nephew come to our home; however, despite all our best efforts to find things that will be of interest to them—a special snack or a new game or dvd—the  inevitable blank stares take over and we hear the phrase, “I’m bored.”

I hate being the boring aunt! 

How often do you hear this as parents—despite all your efforts to engage your child in interesting activities?   

For me, personally, I’m tired of guessing. This year I’m going to try something new. I’m going to ask my niece and nephew what they need/want, while at my home, that will make it “less boring” and more interesting.

As educators, we design lessons that are intended to be meaningful and engaging; however, there is often the worry that our students may not be as engaged in the work as we hope—that our students are merely being compliant—or worse, that they’re “bored.” 

Philip Schlecty, the founder of the Schlechty Center, a private, nonprofit organization committed to transforming classrooms, schools, and school districts from places focused on compliance to those focused on engagement, defines engagement this way:

“Students who are engaged exhibit three characteristics: (1) they are attracted to their work, (2) they persist in their work despite challenges and obstacles, and (3) they take visible delight in accomplishing their work.”

(http://www.schlechtycenter.org/about-the-center)

Richard Strong, Harvey F. Silver, and Amy Robinson, in their article “Strengthening Student Engagement: What Do Students Want (and what really motivates them)?” believe the following four goals lead to engagement in work:

  • Success (the need for mastery),
  • Curiosity (the need for understanding),
  • Originality (the need for self-expression),
  • Relationships (the need for involvement with others).

(http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept95/vol53/num01/Strengthening-Student-Engagement@-What-Do-Students-Want.aspx)

These are great theories, but what do our kids think? What really motivates them? When are they most engaged in learning? When, and under what conditions do they care enough to work hard?

Over the next few weeks, all students at Northeast Middle School will have an opportunity to respond to questions like these through a Student Engagement Survey. 

The staff of Northeast Middle School is tired of guessing—we want to know what tasks and learning experiences our students find most engaging and meaningful to them as learners. 

As a staff, we are also taking a survey—we are predicting what the results may be. Then, when we have the student results, we will compare our predictions to these. We believe there will be rich and meaningful dialogue as we compare our predictions to the students’ results. 

What do you predict your child and other students at Northeast will have to say about when—and how—they learn best?

I hope you will take the time to complete a parent predictions survey. The survey will be open until September 21, 2012. I will share the results of this survey in an October e-news along with results from the student survey. 

In much the same way this will foster rich and meaningful dialogue among the staff, hope the same holds true for you and your child as well as among you and your family and friends. 

Have a wonderful week!

Kim Brandon

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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