Motivation and Purposefulness

Recently, I was invited to work with grade level teams at an elementary school as a follow up to a day of walkthroughs at their school and presentations of my observations to the teachers. Our initial work had focused on engagement. I shared this in an earlier blog labeling engagement as teacher initiated and student initiated.

Here are the requests I received from some of the teams:

3rd Grade: We would like Mr. Barkley to help in the following ways: Motivation and the “uncaring” student. Describe some techniques to help students take ownership of their own learning. We are all confronting lack of motivation of some students within our classrooms and we have discussed this amongst our team and PLC’s. We strongly feel that these students negatively affect the classroom environment. Other students, who may not normally behave in this manner, tend to follow the “uncaring” students lead and do the same. The problem seems to spread. We have discussed motivation and tried many things that have had minimal impact. We would like Mr. Barkley to share some motivation techniques with us that have worked in other schools.

Kindergarten: We would like Steve to help us improve student effort and attempt. How do we make this student initiated instead of teacher initiated? What can we do to make our school FUN?? We want children to be excited about learning. Kindergarteners are excited about school but seem to lose that excitement as they grow older.

In both groups we spent some time reviewing work from Tapping Student Effort: Increasing Student Achievement. We reviewed the formula EFFORT times ABILITY focused on a MANAGEABLE TASK equals SUCCESS and looked at William Glasser’s work identifying survival, belonging, power freedom and fun as motivators.

I provided some examples from Tapping Student Effort for the third grade team:
Banana Split (page 108) where a third grade teacher created a class goal. When everyone in the class passes a test on the times tables, there would be a banana split party for the class. Her class quickly became a team helping and supporting each other to complete the task. To quote the teacher, ”They all experienced a degree of success due to their own hard work that led them to believe that memorizing the facts was possible for them.”

Skywalker Sprouts (page 62) where a second grade class from Michigan learns lots while running a business. Students purchase Alfalfa seeds, water and grow sprouts, package, market, sell and reinvest in the next crop. When problems arise they practice problem solving along with planning, and cooperating to reach a common goal. Students created a booklet for first time purchasers.

All these areas of motivation are connected to Daniel Pink’s work in DRIVE:The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

“We know—if we have spent time with young children or remember ourselves at our best – we’re not destined to be passive and compliant. We’re designed to be active and engaged. And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we are clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice — doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.”(page 145)

Watch the primary students in this video having fun learning and identifying how they listen to their own voice and DO!

The first grade team asked to look at confidence in work and risk taking in reading tasks. After looking at the same information on motivation, I sent them to the blog of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano to listen to first grade readers who blogged, podcast, and tweeted their updated Flat Stanley stories.

Listen to a few of the students reading on the podcast and you’ll note what Silvia states…reading and producing for a worldwide audience does make a difference.

I’d love to see your examples of students working with purposefulness. Promise I’ll share them with teachers to spark their thinking and push their courage to do the same.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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