Within the last 5 to 6 years student engagement has been apart of the buzz words in education. So what exactly is student engagement? Student engagement can be defined qualitatively by the actions of students as they complete a task. When looking for student engagement these actions can be observed: the students are attracted to their work, they persist in their work despite challenges and obstacles, and they take visible delight in accomplishing their work.
This week I have been teaching two by two multiplication and then I began to teach the first part of factors and multiples. The picture below is a sample of the completed activity by a student after being taught factors.
As a former middle school math teacher I realized that this standard could be difficult for 4th grade students because it was previously introduced in 5th grade and reinforced in 6th grade. Before teaching this lesson I anticipated that my students would struggle with this skill because of their weak conceptual foundation of multiplication from 3rd grade. After much thought I figured that this would be a perfect activity for them because it would give them another opportunity to practice and cement their understanding of multiplication with another concept. The Bone Factory
After completing this activity I asked one of my students did she like the activity and she said yes. I then asked her what did she like about the activity and she said, “Coloring the dog”. This response made me reflect on what kind of activities that I have been giving my students this year to support my objectives. I had recently noticed that my student engagement has been dwindling and the students were in kind of a rote state of learning. I now know the reason behind the decline.
In past years I did more coloring , cutting and pasting activities with various concepts than I have this year. My rationale behind this change was I thought that because my students this year were so far behind that I needed to change the types of activities that I gave them. Boy, was I so wrong!!!
As teachers I think that we sometimes forget that we are actually teaching children, because the high stakes testing often over shadow what activities will motivate students to complete their work and keep them engaged. Even though my students are not proficient with their multiplication facts I had 100% student engagement with this activity and perseverance; even from a student who has not attempted to complete many assignments this year felt compelled to complete my factor activity!
I have begun to realized that even though my students are not stellar at their multiplication facts and still sometimes count on their fingers, motivation is the vehicle for high student engagement. Although this activity may look like it could have been done by a 1st or 2nd grader, it motivated my students to show mastery of 2 math concepts that many middle school students cannot comprehend.