Classroom Activities for Bringing REACH Concepts to Life in Multiple Ways

struggle strategies in the classroom

A note from Eric Kalenze, Director of Education Solutions:

Hello and happy new year! My previous post mentioned that, in order to provide more detail about how REACH research and resources are informing practices in the schools we work with, the Search Institute blog will feature occasional guest pieces from educators. This week’s post is provided by guest blogger Ana Li Zhong, a grades 5-6 ELL teacher at IJ Holton Intermediate School in Austin, MN. Ana is part of a teacher team at Holton that has been learning about and implementing REACH research and resources over the past two years.

By Ana Li Zhong

When we began working with Search Institute’s REACH strategies to improve student motivation, we knew we were going to have to make REACH work with, not just in addition to our school’s other instructional initiatives. There just wasn’t enough time available to ‘do’ another program. And in our work we’ve found that yes, it is possible to integrate REACH with other classroom activities!

Because just as with any lesson guide, Search Institute’s Anchor Activities don’t necessarily have to be followed to the last letter. Basically, the Anchor Activities provide some structure to guide teachers and students through certain ways of thinking about themselves, their relationships, their work habits, and their futures, all in line with the REACH research. Over time, our team has learned to use other classroom activities--not just the Anchor Activities alone--to take students through these thought exercises. This way, kids get more practice with REACH principles and other instructional innovations we’re implementing at one time. REACH isn’t always being used, then, as an added-on set of activities and expectations.

Here’s how we’re working REACH into other ongoing improvement strategies being implemented at our school this year: AVID note-taking strategies and designing arts-integrated instruction (advised by arts-integration consultants Focus 5).

In planning for REACH’s ‘Selecting Struggle Strategies’ Anchor Activity, I used practices from AVID and Focus 5 to both introduce and help my kids remember key points.

Integration of an artistic-expression strategy

First, I integrated an artistic-expression strategy to help kids REACH Activity’s ideas about ways that struggling with a task can lead to learning. I did this by having students make a tableau, a frozen picture the kids collectively create with their bodies to emulate a prompt. (My kids love making tableaus because they don’t see it happening every day in their classrooms). When I introduced the “struggle strategies” Anchor Activity, we first talked about possible examples to express their understanding of the concept, then students choose one to tableau.

This fun, creative method helped several kids remember what each struggle strategy was about. (Logistics note: In that class I have a group of seven, and this was done during our 30-minute homeroom time. If your class is larger, I’d advise to keep each tableau group to no more than seven students.) Groups then shared each tableau and explained the meanings. As needed (and as time allows), we reviewed older tableaus and discussed situations where they could have used a certain strategy.

Through this process, students have learned novel practice techniques while remembering the Anchor Activities’ struggle strategies, and we have developed an effective common language by referring back to their tableaus.

Integrating Struggle Strategies with AVID notes

As we learned each struggle strategy named in the “Selecting Struggle Strategies” Anchor Activity, I had students practice their note-taking routines and habits by having students record them using AVID’s 3-column notes strategy. By doing this, students (1)  get additional practice with the technique and (2) have a reference they can look up, anytime and anywhere. I had them head their 3-columns with the terms: Struggle Strategy, Definition, and Examples, then had them complete it as specified in the Anchor Activity and through our tableau exercise.

Creating Struggle Strategy Posters

In still another arts-integrated way, I had students create struggle strategies related posters for the classroom. While making them was a good way for students to review recent and past struggle strategies, the room received the added benefit of visual aids for my students’ reference. These visual aids keep the strategies alive and visible, and help students build independence while applying them on their own!

I hope these ideas encourage you to mix the REACH Process with your own initiatives, and inspire you to engage in Search Institute’s REACH activities from a whole new place. By figuring out how to intertwine it with other initiatives, REACH feels a whole lot less like ‘one more thing’.

You can download a struggle strategy Anchor Activity from the REACH Strategies Guidebook here.

Please be in touch if you have questions. Leave them in the comment space below or email me at erick@search-institute.org.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

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