Saturday, June 14, 2014

Teaching With Poverty in Mind

Eric Jensen ENGAGING STUDENTS WITH POVERTY IN MIND —Practical Strategies For Raising Achievement

I haven't met a student yet who doesn't want to know what is going on. They are in general, busy and curious little people who are trying to make sense of the world, how it works, and more importantly, how they fit into the pattern of it all. Isn't that what we love most about them> They are sponges in the pool of life.

Eric Jensen is passionate about all of our children experiencing that highly engaging environment, especially our students living in poverty. Did you know if you are a child living in poverty not only will you be less likely to graduate high school, you only have a 10 percent chance of experiencing a highly engaging classroom with quality instruction. These students don’t experience curiosity, but rather boredom and irrelevance.

Would you want to go to school in those classrooms? Jensen recommends if we want to get our students of poverty to school and to graduate we need to create classroom systems that are “relevant, engaging, and full of affirming relationships” and “make good things happen every single day.”  We need to help them develop a mindset where I get to go to school rather than I have to go to school.

Jensen’s work with economically disadvantage students focuses on seven engagement factors with a high degree of impact documented by their substantial effect size.  “Teaching matters more than any other factor in a student’s school year. In fact, research (Hanushek, 2005) tells us that quality teaching can completely offset the devastating effects poverty has on student’s academic performance.” Jensen gives us seven engagement factors that are critical to enhance student engagement and are closely tied to socioeconomic status. Here are insights from each of those strategies. For a full description, see the summary posted by ASCD

Seven Engagement Factors
Factor 1: Health & Nutrition
“Poor health and nutrition cannot be ignored; nor should they be used as an excuse for letting students underperform.”
“Creating a highly engaging classroom can help compensate for behavioral and cognitive issues resulting from poor nutrition.”

Factor 2: Vocabulary
“Both the quantity and the quality of phrases directed at the children by caregivers correlated directly with income levels” (Meaningful Differences, Hart & Riley, 2003).
“Teachers must be relentless about using nonverbal communication, visual aids, and context to add meaning and incorporate vocabulary building in engagement activities whenever appropriate.”
“Knock off the coping terms from the glossary as vocabulary instruction.” (Miles, 2014)

Factor 3:  Effort & Energy
“When the learning got your excited, curious, and intrigued, you put in more effort.”
“When you care about your students, they respond.”

Factor 4: Mind-Set
“Poverty is associated with lowered expectations about future outcomes.”
“Teacher’s positive, growth-oriented mind-sets can help compensate for students’ negative mind-sets.”
Factor 5:  Cognitive Capacity
“Poverty affects the physical brain.”
“IQ is not fixed.”
Factor 6: Relationships:
“In poor homes, the ratio of positive affirmations to negative reprimands is typically a 1 to 2.”
“Learn to reframe your thinking: expect that students may be impulsive, blurt inappropriate language, and act disrespectful; until you teach them otherwise.”

Factor 7: Stress Level
Both aggressive and passive behaviors, “are often interpreted as being signs of an attitude or laziness, but they are actually symptoms of stress disorders” and can reduce motivation and effort.”

“Give students more control over their classroom experiences as part of the solution.”
Jensen explains the “five core rules” teachers must internalize in their own practice to improve student behavior and learning. These usually are not taught in our teacher education courses, but are essential for success for all of our students.

  1. Upgrade Your Attitude:  “A positive, optimistic attitude is critical.”
  2. Build Relationships and Respect:  “Students need to see, hear and feel the caring.”
  3. Get Buy-In:  “Sell the learning to them.”
  4. Embrace Clarity:  “Plan with purpose.”
  5. Show Your Passion: “Feelings are contagious.”

Finally, Jensen gives us detailed actions each of us can implement in our classrooms to enthusiastically support our students living in poverty. Specifically engaging our students for:

Positive Climate
Build Cognitive Capacity
Motivation & Effort
Deep Understanding
Energy & Focus

Many of us have teachers who made a difference in our own lives. Jensen’s message is to ensure that each of our students has that same experiences so they want to come to school, be ready to learn, and are prepared for success now and in their future.

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