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Making Elementary Classrooms More Engaging

Gene Weisfeld is the executive director of Educational Initiatives, Inc. ran Mentoring New Mexico, a school-based mentoring program for 12 years, and has been a substitute teacher in the Santa Fe Public Schools both as a teacher and educational aide.

The two most important things he learned were that schools were not addressing students’ most basic problems: health, boredom, lack of motivation, wasted time, and stressful classrooms and that a great deal could be done to reduce these problems with no additional funding or changes to school routine.

Administrators, teachers, parents and students. To make elementary classrooms more engaging, less stressful for teachers, students and parents, while making learning fun, here are some simple, easily affordable, highly effective ways to do it.

First ask teachers if they are:

• Tired of dealing with disruptive, bored and unmotivated students while short changing their other students?

• Concerned about obese students and students who don’t know how to live physically, mentally and emotionally healthy lives?

• Frustrated by the “Teflon Effect” (students’ inability to remember the simplest things from one minute to the next)?

• Feeling guilty about the amount of time their best performing students waste waiting for the rest of the class to finish assignments?

• Disturbed about the lack of diversity in the teachers at their school?

• Unhappy about the limits placed on their use of technology in their classrooms?

• Wishing they could provide more tutoring/mentoring in their classrooms?

• Curious about what students think of school?

• Angered that academic success and improvement are not recognized, encouraged and rewarded? If they are, here are a few examples of how to make things better:

• Give disruptive students controlled freedom of movement, comfortable places to sit and enclosed but observable spaces and provide more opportunities for physical activities in class.

• Motivate bored and unmotivated students with games and competitions.

• Help students who don’t know how to live physically, mentally and emotionally healthy lives by providing more physical activities in class, healthy snacks and incorporating age-appropriate healthy living information into the curriculum.

• Combat the “Teflon Effect” by having students participate more in hands on learning, “being the teacher” and working on problems in front of their classmates.

• Provide projects for high performing students who finish early.

• Use free on-line presentations from diverse teachers from all walks of life.

• Expand your use of technology to engage students and improve learning.

• Implement a peer tutoring/mentoring program in your school.

• Ask students what they think.

• Work with colleagues, parents, students and the community to give academic success and improvement the same kind of recognition, encouragement and rewards that sports gets.

For more information about how to implement these and other ideas, contact Gene Weisfeld, Executive Director, Educational Initiatives, Inc. at gene.weisfeld@cnsp.net.

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