Guest Post by Tiffany Eller, Math Educational Consultant and Coach
What is your next unit of study? How do you plan to pique student interest? Can the students connect their learning to their own lives? When designing a successful unit of study should I incorporate a variety of instructional techniques, scaffold and allow self-regulated learning? YES!! It is appropriate to presume it’ll yield high returns in student engagement if you do!
Increasing Student Engagement
According to Dr. Jennifer Banas, associate professor of education at Northeastern Illinois University, “Each [instructional] unit must incorporate the following motivational concepts to achieve high engagement levels: student self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation, attributions, and goal-orientation strategies.” But how do we get all that into a single unit? Try the A.R.C.S. model motivational strategy! Developed by John Keller (https://elearningindustry.com/arcs-model-of-motivation), A.R.C.S. stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction, and when implemented together in this framework, these strategies can capture and hold a student’s engagement for the duration of a unit!
Beef up your next unit by applying the A.R.C.S. framework with the following suggestions for practically applying each strategy:
A.R.C.S. In the Classroom
While visiting classrooms, I’ve noticed that class sizes have increased over the past few years. Most teachers think that incorporating the A.R.C.S model is a great idea, but unattainable to say the least. Who has time to ensure the content meets all the components of the A.R.C.S. model when I have more kids to manage that I’ve ever had before??
The key is in the planning! If we take the time to look ahead and design our lessons based on the students we have in our classroom, the benefit will be great and it WILL get easier!
Recently, I was reverse coaching in a 3rd grade classroom where all of the components of the A.R.C.S. model were on display. The teacher was on the carpet with a small group of students conducting a lesson on area involving irregular shapes. Each student was given each one piece of blue grid paper and one piece of pink grid paper. They were to create 2-D rectangles or squares in any particular size they chose to represent a “bedroom” floor plan for themselves and for a sibling. The students’ attention was hooked right away – it was so much fun! Some students said, “My bedroom is going to be big, and my sibling’s bedroom with be much smaller.” The teacher made this activity relevant to them by allowing students to create their floor plan of their choice for their room, instead of just a generic floor plan.
During this lesson, students investigated area by counting the actual squares on the grid paper of their “bedrooms.” As they were working, the teacher made connections to a previous lesson where students created arrays and helped students recall attributes of these 2-D shapes. Students also placed their 2-D shapes together with one side touching to create an irregular shape of their choice. This helped them connect their current learning of area to what makes an irregular shape. Breaking this process up into smaller tasks built student confidence because it allowed students to see the irregular shape and calculate the area of that shape with ease because they could easily recognize that it was two familiar rectangles or square. As the students solved, the teacher gave encouragement and feedback in a consistent and fair way. This satisfaction kept all students engaged and motivated to learn.
As an extension, she drew an irregular shape on the board and guided the students in solving for its area given the dimensions of the side length. The students caught on quick by finding ways to decompose the irregular shape into two more clearly defined rectangles, as they had done earlier when building their shapes. While the task could have been foreseen as difficult and confusing, the teacher did a great job building on prior knowledge, relating it to students, breaking it into smaller tasks, and guiding them with good questions to facilitate their learning. Throughout the lesson, students exhibited a hunger for learning, persevered through the task, are were ultimately successful!
I had the opportunity to witness another teacher as she transformed her classroom into a bakery during her measurement unit. The students surveyed each other to find out the most popular cookie, measured out the ingredients, mixed up the cookie dough in their small groups, baked their cookies in the cafeteria, then ate and shared their creations with other staff and students in the school. How fun! Just think about all the learning that went into that “fun” activity!
I encourage you to look at your next unit and find ways to motivate your students to learn using the A.R.C.S. Model of motivation. By applying these effective strategies, your classroom will be transformed into a positive learning environment for all of your students. You’ll have them saying, “What will she come up with next??”
Meet the Blogger
Tiffany Eller, Math Educational Consultant & Coach (Elementary)
Tiffany comes to Strategic Intervention Solutions from Texas, where she had classroom experience with students of all ability levels (general education, special education, and gifted/talented). She holds teaching certificates in Texas and Michigan for both general and special education (grades K-8). When she wasn’t in the classroom, Tiffany conducted trainings in math curriculum for teachers that were either new to the district/grade level or wanted to brush up or improve upon their existing knowledge of mathematics instruction. Tiffany is passionate about equipping teachers to help their students learn in the way that is most meaningful so that students can maximize their growth and reach their full potential.
She graduated from Texas State University and is currently working towards her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.