Huh...What Did You Say? I Wasn't Listening?

Have you ever wondered how engaged your students really are?  What are they thinking as you talk? Trying to reach out to them with your words to tell them everything they need to know.

This is exactly what I asked myself when I started working on my professional development plan this past fall. I wanted to know how I could increase student engagement and create an environment which supported independent thinking.

Now, it's important for you to know that I'm a reading  interventionist. I have small groups in my own classroom with little to no distractions. Even when I do push into a classroom, I  only work with 1 maybe 3 students at a time. You would  think engagement would not be something I would have to focus on.

Well I do. I was finding students were working so hard trying to compensate for some sensory need they didn't have room in their executive functions to engage. They would act impulsively before I even finished giving directions because their auditory memory is only working at half speed and only heard "your going to circle..."

I knew I needed to do something different if I wanted to see things change. I began experimenting with my older students who could read well enough, by posting questions and directions on my walls, table, or even outside the door so they knew what to do when they walked in. I quit talking so much. I bit my tongue when they were making decisions that I knew weren't going to work.

 Guess what, they figured it out on their own. They became problem solvers. They became more comfortable taking some risks because they knew they would eventually figure it out. I'm beginning to see some self regulated thinkers. Minds who ask questions when they need more information. Minds that ask for more when they've figured out step one and are ready for more.

Stay tuned for some of the activities that I used to create these engaged, independent- thinking,  little minds.


  1. Tara-this is a great post. It made me think of one child in particular...he reads fluently, but really struggles with comprehension. I have wondered about ADD for a long time, but he lacks motivation at times too. When he gets frustrated, he shuts down. I am curious what works for you that might work for me. My child loves the computer, so we've worked out more time there. I've also made some sideline deals with him to work on increasing effort. Baby steps... Thanks for posting this.

  2. I certainly don't have all the answers but this is something I've been interested for several years now because my daughter was diagnosed with sensory disorders and was delayed in speech and language. After a lot of research (and tears) I discovered, slowing down and listening to her was my best bet. After seeing the changes she has made in the last year I thought I would start doing the same thing with a few of my students. I have to admit there have been a lot of trial and error moments. I've had to let go of my schedule and some control. What has worked best for me is to always have your goal in mind (what we do naturally) however, I told my kids that goal and we worked together to figure out how we needed to get there. I have a group of third graders who sound a lot like your kiddo. We decided the best way to study story elements was to become an author ourselves. They got out their white boards and the ideas flowed freely (there's something about a whiteboard that envokes risk taking). I used mentor texts to model each element and they were free to listen to the story so when it came time to think about the characters or the setting or problem or solution it was easy. They were sucessful! This too encouraged risk taking. While they read I encouraged them to listen to themselves like they listen to me and I allowed them to practice that independently before they had to do it in a small group. Again, they were able to feel success. When a classmate was still struggling to figure it out another one was able to help them without my guidance. They were having comprehension discussions, successfully! This certainly didn't happen over night and the best advice I could give you would be to listen, try new things, and don't give up. Let them know that you are learning along side them and ask for their help. When they become apart of your team they will try harder! Best of luck to you and yours! I look forward to sharing ideas!


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