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Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Q&A Collections: Student Motivation & Social-Emotional Learning

By Larry Ferlazzo — July 20, 2021 20 min read
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During the summer, I am sharing thematic posts bringing together responses on similar topics from the past 10 years. You can see all those collections from the first nine years here.

Here are the ones I’ve published so far:

The 11 Most Popular Classroom Q&A Posts of the Year

Race & Racism in Schools

School Closures & the Coronavirus Crisis

Classroom-Management Advice

Best Ways to Begin the School Year

Best Ways to End the School Year

Today’s theme is on student motivation and social-emotional learning. You can see the list of posts following this excerpt from one of them:


*Nine Strategies for Promoting Student Engagement

Five educators discuss how to maximize engagement, including the importance of understanding student motivation in and out of the classroom.

* Increasing Engagement With Student Choice

Four educators discuss ways to increase student engagement, including providing choice and building a sense of classroom community.

* Student ‘Compliance Does Not Equal Engagement’

Four educators share suggestions for how schools can maintain student engagement, especially during the teenage years.

* 17 Approaches for Encouraging Students to Revise Their Writing

Five educators offer instructional strategies to use when teaching writing revision, including the power of an authentic audience.

* Ways to Help Ignite Students’ Intrinsic Desire for Writing Revision

Five educators make suggestions that might help students want to revise their writing, including by using “editing stations.”

* ‘I No Longer Give Grades on Student Writing Assignments, and It’s the Best Thing Ever!’

Five educators share how they have helped students motivate themselves to revise their writing.

* Making Revision of Writing a ‘Collaborative Process’

Six educators discuss strategies they’ve used to encourage students to revise their writing, such as demonstrating their own practice.

* 12 Strategies for Encouraging Students to Want to Revise Their Writing

Four educators share suggestions for creating the classroom conditions in which students want to make revisions to their writing.

* Give Students Choice When It’s Time to Read

Three educator contributors, and several readers, share strategies for encouraging students to read, including offering choice and time in class.

* Encourage Students ‘to See Reading as a Relational Experience’

Three educators offer classroom ideas for encouraging student intrinsic motivation to read, including through book choice and opportunities for discussion with their peers.

* 22 Strategies for Encouraging Students’ Intrinsic Motivation to Read

Four educators share strategies for encouraging students to WANT to read, including by illustrating that it makes them smarter and that it makes them better writers.

* ‘Allow Time for Children to Read Whatever They Want’

Four educators share ideas for how teachers can create the conditions in which students are more intrinsically motivated to read, such as eliminating rewards and ensuring that students are represented in accessible books.

* Make Learning Relevant by ‘Getting to Know Your Students’

Five educators discuss strategies for increasing the relevance of lessons, including by learning student interests and sharing the stories of scientists.

* Teachers Can Make Lessons Relevant by Listening

Four educators share ideas on how to help students see how lessons are relevant to their lives, including by listening, connecting to their experiences, and inviting them to create projects based on their own interests.

* Responses to ‘Why Do I Have to Learn This?’

Five educators describe how they help students see the relevancy of lessons, including through the use of empathy and analogies.

* ‘The Problem With Kindness': SEL & the Death of George Floyd

Three educators offer suggestions for educators in the face of George Floyd’s death, among them, going beyond social-emotional-learning skills and “know and teach the history of race.”

* Adding Relevance to Instruction

Seven educators write about ways they have injected relevance into their lessons, ranging from applying culturally responsive instruction to inviting students to be “co-teachers.”

* Ways to Make Lessons ‘Relevant’ to Students’ Lives

Six educators share strategies for making lessons directly relevant to students’ lives, including by building relationships, celebrating cultures, and applying a concept called “Hooks and Bridges.”

* Videos: Student-Motivation Tips for Remote Learning

I share two videos that highlight how to use the concepts of “autonomy, competence, relatedness, and relevance” to encourage student intrinsic motivation in remote learning.

* Encouraging Student Engagement in Remote Learning

Teacher David Sherrin discusses ideas on how to motivate students in distance teaching and learning and shares some online resources he has created for his classes.

*Ways to Handle Student Absences in Remote Teaching & When We’re Back in School

Four educators share advice on dealing with student absences. These include trying to find out the real reasons behind the lack of attendance and building positive teacher/student relationships.

* Responding to Absenteeism During the Coronavirus Pandemic & Beyond

Four educators share strategies for responding to absenteeism—whether from remote learning or from the physical school. They include a reduced emphasis on negative consequences and a renewed focus on relationship-building.

* Four Ways to Help Students Feel Intrinsically Motivated to Do Distance Learning

I share four ways to help students feel intrinsically motivated to participate in virtual learning, including by teachers’ developing positive relationships with students and by creating opportunities for small-group independent work.

* Five Ways to Boost Student Participation in Remote Learning

Helping students form habits and explaining they’ll get a chance to see their friends are just two ways to motivate them to do their online learning, says educator and researcher Harry Fletcher-Wood.

*Overcoming Apathy in Remote Teaching

“Tomorrow will come, and you should make every effort to meet it on your own terms to do what you can, for those you can, for as long as you can,” says teacher Susan Scott.

*We Need to Help ‘Students Recognize the Brilliance They Already Have’

Ten educators wrap up a five-part series on ways to look for the positive, instead of the negative, in students, so they can change their own mindsets about the children’s abilities as well as their students’.

*Look at ‘What’s Strong, Not What’s Wrong’ With Our Students

Ten educators explore how to emphasize student “assets” instead of their “deficits” in order to help students better engage in their education and improve their academic outcomes.

*Focusing on What Our Students Are Doing Instead of What They’re Not ...

Elizabeth Stein, Beth Kobett, Ed.D., Carol Pelletier Radford, Noah Prince, Michael Hart, Ph.D., Jenny Edwards, and Keisha Rembert offer their answers to the question, “How do we highlight student assets?”

* The Importance of Focusing on Students’ Assets

Lisa Westman, Salome Thomas El, T.J. Vari, Joseph Jones, Amber Chandler, Michelle Shory, Ed.S., Irina V. McGrath, Ph.D., Rita Platt, Cheryl Mizerny, and Adria Klein, Ph.D., contribute commentaries on the importance of emphasizing student strengths.

* We Must ‘See Our Students as Asset-Filled Beings

Adeyemi Stembridge, Ph.D., Larry J. Walker, Carmen Nguyen, Julie Jee, Shawna Coppola, Kevin Parr, and Andrew Sharos share ideas on how we can focus on the assets, instead of the “deficits,” of our students.

* Everything You Wanted to Know About Student Motivation But Were Afraid to Ask

This post includes four videos Katie Hull Sypnieski and Larry Ferlazzo did with Education Week on the topic of student motivation, and it includes many other related resources.

* ‘Building Student Engagement Begins With Community & Relationships’

Paula Mellom, Rebecca Hixon, Jodi Weber, PJ Caposey, Blake Harvard, Katie White, Michael Fisher, and Meena Srinivasan discuss how to best promote student engagement.

*‘Student Engagement Means Connectedness’

Today’s commentaries on student engagement are offered by Cheryl Abla, Jessica Garza, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Michelle Shory, Irina V. McGrath, Cindy Garcia, Kim Morrison, and Ann Mausbach.

* Ways to Promote Student Engagement

Kathy Dyer, Sarah Said, Samantha Cortez, Cathy Beck, Danny Weeks, Beth Gotcher, Madeline Whitaker Good, and Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, Ph.D., help answer questions about student engagement.

*Everything You Wanted to Know About Student Agency But Were Afraid to Ask ...

Rebecca Alber, Andrea Keith, Tamara Fyke, Jenny Edwards, and Michael D. Toth “wrap up” a four-part series on student agency.

*'Agency’ Lets Students ‘Take an Active Role in Shaping Their Future’

Debbie Silver, Jennifer Casa-Todd, and Bill Ivey provide responses to the question, “What is agency and how can teachers encourage its growth among students?”

*Ways to Support Student Agency

Adeyemi Stembridge, Mary Beth Nicklaus, Alycia Owen, and Laura Greenstein discuss the value of student agency and how to promote it in schools.

*'Student Agency Is Ownership’

Keisha Rembert, Sarah Ottow, Laurie Manville, Alva Lefevre, Lynell Powell, Felicia Darling, Paula Mellom, Rebecca Hixon, and Jodi Weber define student agency and how to promote it in the classroom.

*Teach Students That ‘Failure Is a Step Toward Success’

Bryan Goodwin, Laura Greenstein, Margaret Searle, and Jon Saphier wrap up a three-part series on resilience in the classroom.

* Supporting Students’ Capacity to ‘Bounce Back’

Debbie Silver, Gary Armida, Tamara Fyke, Douglas Reeves, and Michael D. Toth offer their thoughts on how educators can help their students develop resilience.

* Ways to Promote Resilience in the Classroom

Adeyemi Stembridge, Becky Corr, Julie Hasson, Cindy Terebush, Cynthia “Mama J” Johnson, and Kelly Wickham Hurst share their suggestions on how to promote resilience in students.

* A ‘Trauma-Informed Classroom Is a Safe and Secure Place’

Rita Platt, guest host for this series on trauma-informed teaching, continues the conversation with her own response, along with contibutions from Beth Parson Stauner, Robert Ward, Amber Chandler, and Kelly Knoche.

* Strategies for ‘Trauma-Informed Teaching’

Rita Platt guest-hosts this post on trauma-informed teaching with contributions from Christy Wolfe, Jason Harelson, Chris Weber, and Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D.

* Ways Schools Can Respond to Bullying

Martha Caldwell, Oman Frame, Terry Roller, Kris Felicello, John Seborowski, Jessica Hannigan, John Hannigan, and Kelly Wickham Hurst share their suggestions for combating bullying.

* Going After ‘the Roots’ of Bullying

Today’s commentaries on bullying in schools come from Ann Mausbach, Kim Morrison, Signe Whitson, Sandy Harris, Julie Combs, Stacey Edmonson, Elizabeth Englander, Tamara Fyke, Stuart Ablon, and Alisha Pollastri.

* Using Social-Emotional Learning to Challenge ‘Systems of Oppression’
This post on the role of race and equity in social-emotional learning is “guest hosted” by Mai Xi Lee, the director of social-emotional learning for the Sacramento City Unified school district. After her introduction, she brings together responses from Robert J. Jagers, Mary Hurley, Sonny Kim, Christina Arpante, Meena Srinivasan, Africa S. Fullove, and Kashia Jensen.

* Equity & Social-Emotional Learning
Carla Tantillo Philibert, DeEtta Jones, and Peggy Collings continue the discussion on the role of race and equity in social-emotional learning.

* Creating Classrooms ‘to Unlock the Learning Potential Mistakes Provide Us’

Experienced educators Doug Lemov, Danny Woo, Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski, Bena Kallick, Allison Zmuda, Jen Schwanke, and Mike Janatovich discuss how to handle student mistakes in the classroom.

* Mistakes Are ‘Learning in Action’

Warren Schnack, Jenny Edwards, Michael Thornton, Annie Ward, and Cathy L. Seeley share classroom strategies for effectively dealing with student mistakes.

* ‘Freedom to Fail’ Creates a Positive Learning Environment

Amber Chandler, Howard Pitler, Barry Saide, John Spencer, Riina Hirsch, Nadja Reilly, and Laura Taddei are today’s contributors on the topic of handling student mistakes.

* Recognize Students When They Learn From Mistakes

Margaret Searle, Diana Laufenberg, Jessica Lahey, Jonathan Cassie, Andrew Miller, Allen Mendler, and Mark Katz share their ideas on the topic of handling mistakes in school.

* ‘A Mistake Is a Door to Discovery’

In this last post of the series, Bryan Harris, Allison Rodman, Dawn Mitchell, Josh Patterson, Erik M. Francis, Otis Kriegel, Barbara Blackburn, and many readers contribute their thoughts on student mistakes.

* Ways Educators Can Respond to Student Trauma

Mary Ann Zehr, Jennifer Davis Bowman, Cindi Rigsbee, Kenneth Baum, David Krulwich, Judie Haynes, Debbie Zacarian, and Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz, Ph.D., share how educators can best respond to student trauma.

* Students Exposed to Trauma Are ‘Full of Promise’

Adeyemi Stembridge, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, Signe Whitson, Natalie Patterson, and Josh Patterson share their thoughts on responding to student trauma.

* Schools Can’t ‘Wish Away’ Challenges of Student Trauma

Today’s post features commentaries from Susan E. Craig, Rhonda Neal Waltman, Patricia (Tish) Jennings, Eric Jensen, Joe Hendershott, and Kristin Souers, along with thoughts from readers.

* Student Goal-Setting in the Classroom

Sanée Bell, Rita Platt, Kevin Parr, Jennifer Davis Bowman, and Matt Renwick share their ideas for helping students set learning goals.

* Provide ‘Voice’ and ‘Choice’ When Students Set Goals

Regie Routman, Laura Robb, Dr. Lynell Powell, John Spencer, and Jeffrey Benson contribute their commentaries on goal-setting with students.

* ‘A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish’

Cindi Rigsbee, Lisa Westman, Jenny Edwards, and Margaret Searle offer their thoughts on student goals and learning.

* Students ‘Take Ownership of Their Learning’ Through Goal-Setting

In today’s final post in a four-part series, Kathy Dyer, Donna Wilson, Marcus Conyers, Kirke Olson, Barbara Blackburn, and readers provide additional strategies on student goal-setting.

* Metacognition Is a ‘Catalyst for Action’

Today, Dan Rothstein, Mark Estrada, Diane Friedlaender, Bena Kallick, Allison Zmuda, Donna Wilson, and Amy Benjamin answer the question, “What is metacognition, and how do we teach it?”

* Metacognitive Skills Put Students on ‘Road to Lifelong Learning’

Laura Robb, Teresa Diaz, Matt Renwick, PJ Caposey, and LouAnne Johnson share their thoughts on helping students develop metacognition.

* Student Metacognition ‘Needs to Be Purposely Developed’

Erik M. Francis, Pam Ferrante, Frank Lyman, Kathy Dyer, and Amber Chandler contribute their thoughts on metacognition in the classroom.

* Metacognition Helps Students ‘Understand Their Gaps & How to Close Them’

Today’s final post in a four-part series on metacognition includes answers from Howard Pitler, Tan Huynh, Saundra Yancy McGuire, John Larmer, Mike Janatovich, Matt Townsley, Thomas Armstrong, and Anna Crowe.

* We Need to ‘Nurture Creativity for All Students’

Ronald A. Beghetto, William Kist, Angela Doucette, Thomas Armstrong, Coleen Armstrong-Yamamura, Bidyut Bose, and Erik Shonstrom make their suggestions about how to enhance creativity in the classroom.

* We Must Help Students ‘Recognize Their Creative Strengths’

Laura Taddei, Cathy L. Seeley, Zane Dickey, Laura Fleming, Billy Krakower, Diane Friedlaender, and Richard Byrne contribute their thoughts on developing creative students.

* We Need to ‘Initiate Wonder in the Classroom’

Lorena Germán, John Spencer, Laura Gibbs, Rachel Trowbridge, Amy Sandvold, Jen Schwanke, and Howard Pitler share their responses on how to help students develop creativity.

* ‘Learning Self-Regulation’ Is Needed on Path to Academic Success

In this post, Donna Wilson, Thomas Armstrong, Joe Hendershott, Jeffrey Benson, Mark Katz, and Jonathan Cassie contribute their thoughts on teaching students self-control.

* ‘Self-Control Doesn’t Just Happen, It Needs to Be Taught’

Robert Ward, Sue Defreyne, Allen Mendler, Daniel Rechtschaffen, Carla Tantillo Philibert, and Christine Brandt provide answers on how to help our students develop self-control.

* ‘Student Autonomy Is a Prerequisite of Self-Control’

Thomas R. Hoerr, Libby Woodfin, Jenny Edwards, Dave Stuart Jr., Maurice J. Elias, and Matt Renwick share their suggestions on how we can help our students develop self-control.

* ‘Self-Control Can Be Learned’

This post considers how teachers can best help students strengthen these self-control skills with suggestions from Bryan Harris, Jennifer Davis Bowman, Amanda Koonlaba, Nancy Steineke, Mike Anderson, and Jen Schwanke.

* ‘Helping Children Succeed': An Interview With Paul Tough

I interview Paul Tough about his second book on social-emotional learning.

* Applying a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

This post includes contributions from David Yeager, Debbie Zacarian, Peter DeWitt, and Barbara Blackburn, along with comments from readers.

* ‘Growth Mindset Starts With Us, Not With Them’

Eduardo Briceño, Kristine Mraz, and Christine Hertz share their thoughts.

* Student ‘Reflection Needs to Be a Habit’

This post features commentaries from Pernille Ripp, Sean Ruday, Jacqueline Darvin, Daniel Rechtschaffen, and Heidi Mills.

* Students Must ‘Reflect on What They Are Learning’

Jenny Edwards, Jennifer Fletcher, Mary Tedrow, Barry Saide, William Himmele, and Pérsida Himmele contribute their ideas on how to practically implement reflection in the classroom.

* ‘It’s Time to Change the Conversation About Grit’

This post features responses from Kristine Mraz, Christine Hertz, Ebony O. McGee, Ron Berger, Thomas Hoerr, and Dave Stuart Jr.

* Students Develop Grit by ‘Taking Charge of Their Own Learning’

This post includes contributions from Bryan Harris, Ben Spielberg, Mike Anderson, Gravity Goldberg, and Barbara Blackburn.

* To Teach Grit or Not to Teach Grit: That Is the Question

Andrew Miller, Barry Saide, Sara Truebridge, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Trevor Bryan, and William Dikel share their responses.

* Ways to Build ‘Authentic Engagement’ & Not ‘Strategic Compliance’

Educators Vicki Davis, Rusul Alrubail, Laura Cabrera, and Dana Dusbiber contribute their suggestions.

* Strategies for Encouraging Student Engagement

William & Pérsida Himmele, Jennifer Gonzalez, and Karen Lirenman share their ideas.

* ‘Care Is the Catalyst for Learning’

Sean McComb, P.J. Caposey, Cindi Rigsbee, A. William Place, Jennifer Fredricks, and several readers contribute their thoughts on the topic.

* ‘There’s Nothing More Innovative Than Care’

Educators Andre Perry, Sara Ahmed, Kristine Mraz, Sean Slade, and Mai Xi Lee provide responses.

* Supporting Student Engagement by ‘Building Community’

This post includes guest responses from Jennifer Fredricks, Aubrie Rojee, April Baker, Beth Donofrio, and Louis Cozolino.

* Student Engagement Is ‘the Act of Being Invested in Learning’

Patricia Vitale-Reilly, Ken Halla, Zaretta Hammond, Barbara Blackburn, and Heidi Weinmann write their responses.

* Student Engagement ‘Involves Joyous Effort’

ReLeah Lent, Barry Gilmore, Nancy Steineke, Michael Opitz, Michael Ford, and Eric Jensen all share their thoughts on the topic.

* The Best Ways to Engage Students in Learning

Responses in this column come from Julia Thompson, Myron Dueck, Bryan Harris, and Debbie Silver.

* Ways to Cultivate Whole-Class Engagement
Vice Principal Jim Peterson, educators/authors William and Pérsida Himmele, and I share our ideas on getting all students in class participating more all the time.

* ‘There Is No Such Thing as an Unmotivated Student’

This post has an impressive lineup with guest responses from Cris Tovani, Josh Stumpenhorst, and Eric Jensen.

* ‘Good News & Bad News’ About Student Motivation

This post has another “all star” lineup of guests: Maurice J. Elias, Stevi Quate, and Cindi Rigsbee, as well as an intriguing chart I made with Google’s Ngram Viewer.

* ‘Listen, Empathize, Connect’ for Student Motivation

Educators Jason Flom and Barbara Blackburn contribute their thoughts, along with many comments from readers.

* ‘Character Should Be an Integrated Element of Education’

Educators Debbie Silver, Jason Flom, David B. Cohen, and I share our commentaries on if and how “character” should be taught in schools.

* ‘Teaching Character Is Not a Program or Curriculum’

This post features contributions from Maurice J. Elias, Sherrel Bergmann, Judith Brough, and Thomas R. Hoerr.

* ‘Character Is Not Compliance Out of Fear’

This post shares a guest response from Lester L. Laminack, educator and author, as well as many comments from readers. I’ve also included another interesting Ngram Viewer chart.

* ‘Teachers Need to Behave Like Johnny Appleseeds': An Interview With Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle is the author of The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. and its sequel, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills. Many educators have read and applied aspects of his book to the classroom (as I have), and he agreed to answer a few questions.

* ‘Creating a Culture Where Students Want to Succeed’

This post includes comments from Margaret A. Seale, Maurice J. Elias, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, and Howie Knoff. I also share ideas contributed by readers.

* Ways to Develop a Culture of Success in Schools

Educators Jeffrey Benson, Christopher Lehman, and Barbara Blackburn share their responses.

* ‘Flow’ in the Classroom

David J. Shernoff, the preeminent researcher on directly applying the concept of “flow” to the K-12 classroom, provides the featured commentary here.

* Student Engagement “Requires a Conversation”

Educators Mark Barnes, Jeffrey Zoul, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, and Marsha Ratzel share their thoughts (along with multiple comments from readers).

* Teachers as ‘Persuaders': An Interview With Daniel Pink

Acclaimed author Daniel Pink answers several of my questions here.

* Classroom Strategies to Foster a Growth Mindset

Professor Carol Dweck and Lisa Blackwell, the co-founder of the organization designed to help schools be more effective in helping students develop growth mindsets, are the co-authors of this guest response.

* Applying Research Findings to the Classroom

Several guests contribute their ideas to this topic, and I’d like to particularly highlight Bryan Goodwin’s response on “applying research on student motivation to teacher talk.”

* An Interview With Paul Tough on Character & Schools

Author Paul Tough responds to a number of my questions in this post.

* Teaching ‘Character’ in Schools—Part Two

Author/educator Debbie Silver and I make suggestions and observations.

* Several Ways to Connect With Disengaged Students

Assistant Principal Jim Peterson and author Jim Anderson share their suggestions. Peterson’s downloadable instructions for conducting “walk-and-talks” with students seemed to particularly strike a chord with readers.

* Several Ways to Engage Students Without Carrots & Sticks

Principal Chris Wejr and educator and author Jeff Wilhelm offer practical ideas on how to help students develop intrinsic motivation.

* Several Ways to ‘Motivate’ the Unmotivated to Learn

Best-selling authors Daniel Pink and Dan Ariely respond to the question—with Ariely answering in a video.

* Part Two of Several Ways We Can Help Students Develop Good Habits

Author Art Markman lists several ways teachers can help students develop better study habits.

* Several Ways to Help Students Develop Self-Control

Roy F. Baumeister, director of the social-psychology program at Florida State University and co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength, describes his research on self-control as a “limited energy resource” and its classroom implications.

* Several Ways We Can Help Students Develop Good Habits

New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, author of the new bestselling book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, shares his responses to my questions on how to apply his research to our work in schools.

* Several Ways to Apply Social-Emotional-Learning Strategies in the Classroom

Two guests with a great deal of experience with social-emotional learning write responses—Maurice J. Elias, director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, and Tom Roderick, the executive director of Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility.

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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