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Jennifer Doering
Margaret Golden
EDUC 4180
7 November 2016
Engagement is Key: Supporting Student Learning
In my experience as a classroom observer, Ive seen many ways that teacher try to engage
students in learning. Sometimes it doesnt work and it feels like you are pulling teeth, trying to
teach students something they just arent interested in. Sometimes it does work and it feels like
magic. They float along, learning almost independently, and the lesson goes smoothly and
productively. Ive seen one specific example of this type of teaching, one example of teaching
that supports students in their learning, and one that helps students with both.
The strategy that solely engages students in learning is questioning their thinking
constantly. I saw this technique used in a fourth grade classroom. The teacher taught a math
lesson, did several examples with the students, then sent them off to do several more problems of
the same kind on their own. After they had completed them, she asked them to explain how they
had gotten their answer. Regardless of whether or not they had done the problem correctly, the
teacher asked them why they had done each step. When this happened, one student in particular
would immediately begin backtracking and change his answer. Unfortunately, he was usually
correct. This technique pushed him to be more confident in his answer and work, as the teacher
would then tell him, Youre not wrong, just why? It also pushed him to really understand the
work he was doing and engage with it because his thinking was always questioned. Often,
students learn that a question from a teacher means they have done something wrong. If this

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happens all the time, students have to be more aware of the lesson so they can confidently say, I
know I did this correctly and this is why. I will do my very best to constantly question even my
correct students to build their confidence.
The strategy that engages and supports students in learning is including math games in
addition to whole class lessons during math time. In a second grade classroom, I saw math center
time that was similar to Daily 5. One
station was playing math games with a
partner. Students were allowed to pick one
of several games that focused on single
digit addition. The students I observed
Figure 1: Playing Cards for I Spy

played a game called I Spy where they would lay playing cards out in a grid (see Figure 1).
One player would say, I spy two cards with a sum of 13. Then the other player would try to
find as many pairs that of cards that added to 13 as they could. The students were incredibly
engaged in the activity, finding pairs of cards that I didnt even see until they picked them up.
This activity allowed them to practice their math facts in an exciting way. I
also observed Marcy Cook tile math in a first grade classroom. Students
have tiles from 0-9 and place them on leveled worksheets that have blank
spaces (see Figure 2). Each tile can only be placed in one space and each
worksheet only has one answer. Students were able to work independently,
Figure 2: Tile Math

reviewing whatever math concept they were currently working on. Each student worked
diligently to complete as many pages as they could in the fifteen or so minutes that they were
given and was completely engaged. Students were really excited to show me what they had done

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whenever I came over to check their work. In addition, their learning was supported because
each student had a leveled worksheet that was differentiated to meet their specific needs. I think
that playing games and learning without realizing you are learning is the best way to build any
kind of knowledge and confidence so I hope to include this strategy in my future classroom
especially during math time.
The strategy that solely supports students learning is something called Partner, Partner,
Total. This technique is something I saw in a second grade
classroom and it blew my mind. This teacher advises her
students to label all numbers in a word problem as a
Partner or a Total with a small P or T on their paper
(see Figure 3). Once students have done this, they can write
an equation for the problem and solve it much easier. Most
students dont really understand that when a problem says
Figure 3: Partner, Partner, Total

the word, altogether, the number they have been given

actually goes after the = sign. When students use this notation, with the Ps and T, they are
labeling what the information they have been given actually means and what they will need to
use to solve the problem. Another advantage of this technique is that it does not matter what
strategy students use or even what type of equation they write to solve the problem: everyone in
the class can still access their process. For example, if a problem says, A library has 12 copies
of Harry Potter and there are 5 copies left on the shelf, how many have been checked out? there
are at least two different ways that students can solve this problem. They can say, 12-5=? or 5+?
=12. With the Partner, Partner, Total notation, everyone can still understand why they are writing

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the equation this way. I hope to support my students and their varied ways of thinking by using
this strategy in my future classroom.
Engaging and supporting students in their learning is one of the most important parts of
teaching. If students are not engaged, it feels like a complete struggle for student and teacher
alike. There are many ways of engaging and supporting students and I hope to include them all in
my future classroom.