image Disengaged students

This is heartbreaking! Students who complete tasks which have no meaning for them and or complete assignments just to hand up so the teacher can obtain a grade, these tasks have no relevance for students. Recently I attended the Future Schools Australia Conference and the key message I perceived from both Sr Kennith Robinson and Dr Gary Stager was, with such an overloaded curriculum, teach what you have to teach in order to tick the boxes and then teach the real stuff!

As an educator you are in charge of your class, you have to teach what you are told (ie the Australian Curriculum) but how you deliver the curriculum is your choice. Differentiate your teaching so that it caters for all of your students. It isn’t easy to do to start off with, but when you nail it, both you and your students will enjoy the learning!

So how do you do this? If people show interest in this topic by replying, I’ll blog suggestions 🙂

I know I have posted this video before, I’ve watched Rita Pierson many times but her message needs to get through. Sadly, I don’t think it is 🙁


  1. I think a good place to start is to show interest in what you are teaching. I’d often walk past a classroom and the students would be working at their desks and the teacher is at their own desk. If teachers give students assignments and then go and work at their own computer, how can students possibly be engaged? Sure, some teachers may argue that it teaches them independence, problem solving skills (they can work it out for themselves), yeah right. If teachers show genuine interest in what they are teaching, students will respond.

    Recently I’ve taken on secondary teaching and one of the questions I frequently heard students asking during my first few weeks was, why are you sitting here? Instead of sitting at the teacher’s desk, I would walk around the room and sit next to students as they were working. They thought this was strange. My reply would be, I’m checking out what you are doing, I’m here if you need any help, can I offer a suggestion etc. It didn’t take long for students to become comfortable with this.

  2. Another method to engage students is to involve them in your programming and assessment planning. So how do I do this? Well, I show students the topic/content descriptor/outcome (whatever you’d like to call them) which I need to assess, and I’ll ask them for advice. I actually bring up the Australian Curriculum website, show them what they need to learn and then ask them how do they think I can assess their understanding? What do they think they could do to demonstrate their learning/development?

    They come up with great ideas, some work, some don’t. At the end of an assessment I’ll also ask students what they liked, didn’t like, what part was most valuable etc. Students are being given a voice in their assessment and the review process.
    Before you comment, I can see how this may be challenging for teachers meeting Stage 1 and 2 requirements (Y11 and 12). I have only used this strategy for students in Year 5 to 9.

  3. For middle primary, Year 4-6 teachers, I’d suggest mixing up your class routine. How many teachers still have rosters with jobs for students to do? For example, the lunch order monitor, the bulletin monitor, the hat monitors etc. In some classes there seems to be a monitor for everything! But do kids really like it? Think about the student who never orders their lunch and they are the lunch order monitor for a week. Do you think they’d be excited, going to the canteen, lining up, bringing the lunches back, getting their own lunch late and then going to play? I often hear teachers say, but it works so well, we get things done, it teaches them responsibility. No, I disagree, it teaches them teacher compliance. So how do you get your daily routine jobs done without having monitors?

    You explain to your students that there aren’t any monitors because as a class you’d like us to work together to help each other out. In my Year 5 class, students will randomly decide to take the lunch orders over, if I notice they haven’t been taken to the canteen I’ll just ask, does anyone want to take them? And someone usually will. Last year I managed to deliver and pick up class sets of iPads to our Reception to Year 2 classes without any monitors, how? My students took on the initiative themselves.

    I strongly feel that giving your students the freedom to take on daily routines rather than making them, encourages students to become more engaged in your class. Your classroom organisation becomes a group partnership, rather than a teacher directed organisation group.

  4. This week I worked for the first time with my Year 8 students using Lego Mindstorms. I was feeling rather unsure about it, thinking, how am I going to engage students with these robots when I don’t even know them very well?
    Last year (December) I went to a PD session for using Lego Mindstorms which was good. When I got home I practiced, and had a good enough understanding to write a program. Since then, I have forgotten most things.
    However, I walked into the class room with much enthusiasm, showed students the robots and asked them to follow the tasks I had set on our online portal. I walked around the room, sat with students and I had so much fun!
    The tasks were challenging and open ended. One student asked me why I don’t go through all of the features of the program with them, what each of the icons mean. I replied, because I want you to discover for yourself. When she worked out how to get her robot to move forward, she was up, hands in the air crying, “It worked! I did it!”
    The enthusiasm was awesome. Moving around the room, working and learning with students, and most of all, sharing your enthusiasm for what you are teaching will engage students! Setting tasks and then not engaging with students will not.
    Please note, not all of my planned activities were good, for tasks students didn’t see the point of or they wanted altered, they told me and I adjusted my program.

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