Interest and Effort

These were the key words during a recent day I spent with the students and staff at Twin Lakes Elementary School in Hillsborough County, Tampa, FL.
Each third, fourth ,and fifth grade class assigned two or three students to attend a workshop I did on the “effort formula” found in Tapping Student Effort… Increasing Student Achievement. These students latter in the week provided a workshop for their classmates on effort. Later in the month they will be presenting to kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms.

I provided the students with a power point they could use in their presentations (email me at if you’d like a copy) and created an opportunity for them to create their own list of personal experiences that illustrated ability, effort, future goals, and the connections between the three. We also created a list of effort behaviors for studying, class work, and the upcoming standardized test…”What would be effort during the test?”
Lastly, I had them explore how they might put effort into their upcoming presentations.

The following comments from their principal, Didi Lefler, suggest that many of them decide to “effort.”

I just wanted to send you a quick note about the students you did the workshop with. It has been just amazing to watch them. The facilitators working with them have shared with me how excited and motivated they have been preparing for the presentation. Some groups have taken your presentation and kicked it up a notch. On their own, some groups decided to go back and ask the teacher if they could sit together at lunch to plan their lesson. Another group searched the internet for pictures of success to add to their power point.

I got goose bumps as I walked around to see some of the presentations. They were just adorable and inspiring. The interaction and engagement was outstanding. I feel these kids really got it!! I interviewed some of the students that were presented to and they had a pretty good understanding of the effort formula. This was such a worthwhile activity. I can’t wait until they present to the primary grades.

I spent the afternoon with the staff at Twin Lakes exploring the connection between student interest and student effort. I found the following quote on the web site to kick off our conversation.

The challenge for education could be understood as one that involves figuring out how to get students to want to do what teachers want them to do. However this interpretation sets effort and interest at cross purposes and is not productive. Instead, the research suggests that educators should focus on the complementary qualities of effort and interest.
Providing students with conditions that will involve them in deepening their knowledge should position them to begin asking their own questions about a particular subject matter; recognize that they both have the ability to work on developing their understanding of, as well as their confidence about their ability to work with, the subject matter; and provide support for developing interest and effort that includes trying hard, asking for help, and/or participating. In fact, as John Dewey anticipated, it appears that when conditions to support student interest are in place, effort will follow.

Two articles from the Feb 2009 Kappan provide great insights to promote the interest effort conversation:

In Accelerating the Learning of 4th and 5th Graders Born into Poverty, Stanley Pogrow promotes two strategies that he describes as counter-intuitive:

-Reduce supplemental content reteaching and test prep in reading and math with Socratic interaction that develops a sense of understanding.
-Use “creative authenticity” to present content in meaningful terms of how students view the word and their role in it. Incorporate fantasy, adventure, suspense, fun, and drama.

In The Joys of Teaching the Upper Elementary Grades, Steve Reifman purports that students will fulfill their potential when teachers nurture intrinsic motivation to learn. That happens when we promote purpose, contribution, interest, challenge, success, inspiration, cooperation, trust, feedback, and recognition.

The vertical teams of teachers at Twin Lakes Elementary are exploring simulations and live event learning strategies during the remainder of the school year to tap student interest and hopefully increase student effort during the last part of the school year…increasing student achievement.

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