A note from Eric Kalenze, Director of Education Solutions:

In my post a couple weeks ago I 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 Beth Hasley, a grades 5-6 intervention teacher at I.J. Holton Intermediate School in Austin, MN. Like last week’s guest blogger Ana Li Zhong, Beth 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 Beth Hasley

Interventions and the REACH framework:  A Great Fit!

As an intermediate school interventionist and longtime teacher, I knew right away that the REACH framework would fit perfectly into my intervention classroom. The students I work with in interventions are struggling in more than one area of school, so I’m always looking for ways to help them develop better work habits and improve low levels academic self-esteem, motivation, and stick-to-itiveness.

Though it can be a slow and methodical process to pull off the reframing, REACH gives learning activities and creates practices that chip away at my sometimes-tough audience’s thoughts about themselves and their potential. I’ve found that it can be very rewarding–if you stay the course.

Small Victories

About three weeks into school, I presented the REACH Guidebook’s “The Brain is Like a Muscle” Anchor Activity to my classes. After showing the video about the brain being like a muscle, able to keep developing with continued effort, I followed it up with a discussion about learning from mistakes and the “Famous Failures” video. At the end of one of my classes I was approached by one of my English-Language Learners (a shy fifth grader who had never spoken a word in class without being called on), who said, “Thank you Mrs. Hasley, I feel like I have more confidence now.” After later looking at his records and realizing just how much he had struggled throughout his schooling, his quick thanks to me ended up making my day. To give a struggling student hope and belief that they can succeed, after all, is why I teach!

Putting REACH to the Test

The activities and messages do more than inspire kids, however. They also suggest actual ways for students to improve their all-around academic skills, which then has a noticeable effect on their motivation. After one of our team’s recent learning sessions, for example, which included research about students’ metacognition and the benefit of struggle strategies from the REACH handbook, I decided to see if I could get my kids to concentrate more closely on these skills.

As my testing ground, I chose the new online math and reading intervention program our school launched this year. Since the school adopted the program, I’d found that things weren’t really happening as planned or as promised: kids would sit down for the lesson cycles (which include an online lesson, a brief summary, a practice assignment, and a quiz), but our data was showing that many couldn’t pass the 10-question quiz at the end of the lesson.

When I’d ask students about their results, most admitted to getting lost during the lesson, not paying attention throughout it, giving up along the way, etc., making this a great place to see if REACH’s struggle strategies could help students through obstacles and keep their motivation engaged.

I found and presented the Anchor Activity on struggle strategies from the REACH Guidebook, adding the analogy of driving a car and pulling in the strategies a driver might use when they realize they are lost. The students quickly suggested that the driver should pull over, look at a GPS or map, call someone, turn around and go back, and so on.

I pointed out how similar this all was to strategies a student could use when they realize they are getting lost in a lesson, then referred to the strategies named in the Anchor Activity. Just because one gets lost, I reminded them, doesn’t mean he/she should decide to give up on their trip–they keep working until they find the right way! After the students grasped this, we posted the struggle strategies and have made a habit of referring to them on a regular basis.

Since suggesting this and explicitly making these connections for students, more of my students have begun taking notes alongside the intervention program’s lesson activity (which is allowed with our online program), and many more are passing the program’s quizzes on regular bases.  REACH has been wonderful confidence builder for my students.

You can download a free Anchor Activity–“The Brain is Like a Muscle” 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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