Getting ready for conferences

Over the next week, we’ll all be busy. We’ll continue to focus on our individual learning goals, and I’ll meet with you all about reading and math. Many of you have other pressing work to do in other classes as well. In the middle of it all, we’re getting ready for Parent-Teacher conferences!

My main goal during conferences will be to have a meaningful conversation with your parents and you about your learning progress and goals. Some of you will prepare for that by writing detailed notes to share with your parents; some of you will prepare by writing a reflective letter to your parents; and some of you will find another way to share your learning and goals with your parents. 

I’ll share some ideas in class and will meet with you about your options. For those of you writing a reflective letter, here’s a format you can follow:

Getting back in the swing of things!

My blog had some technical problems during the last part of the first semester, but now, it’s up and running! As you know, in Study Skills and Academic Support, we all have different things we’re focussing on. But at least once every eight days, I like to check in with you about learning habits/organization (day 1 or 2); reading and writing (day 5 or 6) and Math (day 7 or 8). We meet individually and set some goals.

This week, we’ll be finishing up Aimsweb probes in reading and math so I have abetter idea about where we want to focus. On days 1 and 2 (Thursday and Friday), we’ll be reviewing Powerschool and Google Classroom. We’ll take a little time to review Classroom’s To Do list and we’ll set goals for the next week and a half.

The Science of Motivation

On Day 7 and 8 this week (Thursday and Friday), we’re going to think about what motivates us in school: why do we study for important assessments? Why do we turn in homework on-time? Why do we care about what shows up on Powerschool or our report cards? This may be the most important thing we think about this year, because motivation is key to all learning.

All students (all people, really)  are motivated by different things. In school, some work hard mostly for reasons that come from inside them. They study because they enjoy learning new things;  or because they want to prepare themselves for what comes next–high school, university, their future careers; or  because they find it satisfying to overcome challenges. Motivation that comes from inside us is called intrinsic motivation.

Other students work hard mostly for reasons that come from outside them. They study hard because they like to get praise or rewards from their teachers; or because they want to make their parents happy; or because they want to avoid ‘getting in trouble.’  Motivation that comes from outside us is called extrinsic motivation.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can work, and most of us are motivated by a mix of things. But there is some interesting research that suggests that extrinsic motivators (e.g., rewards and punishments) work better for mechanical, boring things, while intrinsic motivators (e.g., working hard because it is satisfying to do a job well) work better for things involving creativity and higher level thinking–much of what we do in school.

For example, rewarding people with money for picking up trash is likely to result in them picking up more trash. But rewarding people with money to become great writers or to solve high level math problems, is not likely to be effective. This may seem hard to believe, but this video by Daniel Pink explains some of the research and reasons why this is true. (If you’d prefer to read about these ideas, you can look here.)

So what mostly motivates you as a student–what makes you work hard when you work hard? Which are more important to you, extrinsic (outside) motivators or intrinsic (inside) motivators? Share your thinking in the comments below.

Getting Organized

This week on Thursday and Friday (days 3 and 4), as IPads are rolling out, we’ll set up our study planning notebooks, and think about what we’ve done in the past to keep track of our work and what we may want to change this year. Remember, we all need a system for keeping track of our homework! 

When I was in middle school, there was only really one way to track homework: you’d write it down. The only  question was whether you’d write it in a calendar, a binder, or on a scrap of paper. I know I tried them all, with varying degrees of success.

Now at AES in 2017, there are many more options. Some students track homework by writing it into a hard copy calendar, such as the AES agenda. This is what I often do, myself. Others rely on electronic tools, such as Notes, Reminders, or Google Calendar. Some students simply check their ‘to-do’ list on Google Classroom each day. Every system has advantages and disadvantages. pic calenar

I thought it would be interesting to share with each other the systems we use for remembering what we have to do and when we have to do it. Please tell us what you do and why it your think it works for you in the comments below. If you are planning to use new tools this year, please share those as well. And while you’re at it, why not read what other students are doing? You might learn a new trick or two while you are at it. Don’t worry if you are new to AES middle school; we’ll be helping you find a system that works for you.