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How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement

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Matthew D'Andrea

on 6 November 2013

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Transcript of How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement

The word poverty does not tell us anything about our students
Many students have the same values of their education and work across all socio-economic statuses
In a study of 81,000 students across the United States, it was found that the students in Title 1 programs had consistently higher levels of engagement than those who were eligible for free or reduced lunch
So, children living in poverty ARE more likely to struggle with engagement in school
There are seven differences between middle-class and low-income students when they arrive at school
How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement
Difference #2: Vocabulary
Children who grow up in low socioeconomic conditions generally have a smaller vocabulary than children of middle-class families, raising the risk of academic failure
Students from low-income families are less likely to know the words a teacher uses or that appear in reading material
When children aren't familiar with words, they don't want to read, tune out, or feel that school is not for them
Students may not want to risk looking "stupid" so they don't participate in class
Difference #1: Health and Nutrition
Poor people are less likely to exercise, get proper diagnoses, receive appropriate and prompt medical attention, or be prescribed appropriate medications or interventions
Children growing up in poor families are given food with lower nutritional value
Poor nutrition at breakfast affects gray matter mass in the brain
When students experience poor nutrition and diminished health practices, it's harder for them to listen, concentrate and learn in school
Difference #3: Effort
Uninformed teachers may think that students slouch, slump, and show little effort because they are lazy, but this may actually be learned helplessness which is a symptom of stress disorder and depression
Low socioeconomic status and the financial hardships that go along with it are correlated with depressive symptoms
One reason students seem unmotivated is because they lack hope and optimism
Students showing little or no feedback are simply giving you feedback
Difference #4: Hope and the Growth Mind-Set
Research suggests that lower socioeconomic status is often associated with viewing the future as containing more negatives than positives, as well as lower expectations
Student's attitude towards learning is a strong predictor of achievement
If a student thinks failure is likely, they will probably not bother to try, and if they think they aren't smart enough and can't succeed they will probably not put forth any effort
What Can You Do?
Teach students that their brain can change and grow and that they can even change their IQ
Provide better-quality feedback (prompt and specific)
Don't tell students they have a limited amount of focusing power
Don't use comforting phrases that suggest even though the student isn't good at something they have other strengths; instead focus on affirming and reinforcing effort
Guide students in making smarter strategy choices and having a positive attitude
What Can You Do?
Remember that the two primary foods for the brain are oxygen and glucose\
Have students engage in stretching or yoga exercises while taking slow deep breaths to increase oxygenation in the brain
Recess and physical education contribute to greater oxygen intake and better learning, so never withhold either as a punishment
Games, movement and drama will trigger the release of glucose, which is associated with stronger memory and cognitive function
What Can You Do?
Introduce and use new words
Include vocabulary building in engaging activities
Incorporate vocabulary practice into daily rituals
Have teams or groups present a "word of the day" every day to the class, and then continue to reinforce the word
What Can You Do?
Strengthen your relationships with students by revealing more about yourself and learning more about your students
Use more "buy-in" strategies such as curiosity builders, excitement and risk, and competition
Make learning more of the students' idea by offering choice and involving them in decision making
Make connections to the student's world so they have more reason to participate
Affirm effort in class every day; when affirmed, challenged, and encouraged students work harder
Set high goals and show students success-stories of adults who came from similar conditions
Provide daily feedback so students see that effort matters
Difference #5: Cognition
What Can You Do?
Focus on the core academic skills that children need most
Begin with the basics, such as how to organize, study, take notes, prioritize, and remember key ideas
Then teach problem-solving, processing, and working-memory skills
Start small, this will help them remember directions you give in class and will support them as they learn how to do mental computations
Remember to use encouragement, positive feedback, and persistence
Difference #6: Relationships
What Can You Do?
Be a strong, positive, caring adult for them
Learn every student's name and ask about their family, their hobbies, and what's important to them
Don't tell students "what to do" tell them "how to do it"
Never embarrass the student in front of his/her peers
If the student misbehaves, simply demonstrate the behavior you would have liked to see and show how it will be important to them throughout their schooling
Discuss common goals and interests
Difference #7: Distress
What Can You Do?
Address the real issue - distress - and the symptoms will diminish over time
Begin by building stronger relationships with students, this helps alleviate stress
Reduce stress by embedding more classroom fun within academics
Provide temporary cognitive support by having them engage in sensory motor activities
Don't try to exert more control over the student, as this will only cause continued issues with engagement
Encourage responsibility and leadership by offering choices, engaging students in projects, and supporting teamwork and classroom decision making
Teach students ongoing coping skills so that they can better deal with their stressors
Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often perform lower on tests of intelligence and academic achievement than those of higher socioeconomic status
Low socioeconomic children often show cognitive problems such as short attention span, high level of distractibility, difficulty monitoring their work, and difficulty generating new solutions to problems
Many students who struggle cognitively either act out or shut down
Studies show that high quality teachers can overcome the problems of underperforming students
When children's early experiences are chaotic or one or both of the parents are absent, the developing brain often becomes insecure and stressed
Children from homes of poverty often get twice as many reprimands as positive comments, as compared to a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative in middle-class homes
The probability of dropping out and school failure increases with the amount of time children are exposed to relational diversity
Disruptive home relationships can create mistrust in students; since adults from home have often failed them, they assume the adults in school will fail them too
Classroom misbehavior is likely because students do not have the at-home stability or examples of appropriate responses for school
Children living in poverty experience greater chronic stress than children living in more affluent conditions
Distress affects brain development, academic success, and social competence
It also impairs behavior, reduces attention control, and impairs working memory
Distressed children often display one of two behaviors, angry assertiveness or disconnected passivity
These behaviors are actually symptoms of stress disorders which influences many behaviors that affect engagement
The most important thing you as a teacher can do is to get to know your students. Without respect and feeling connected with your students, these seven factors will mean little
Remember that students coming from poverty are not broken or damaged. The human brain adapts to experiences by making changes, and students will change
Exit Ticket
Do you think that as a teacher you should be more lenient and flexible with students coming from poverty? Or just provide more support when needed?
Do you think it's realistically possible for these students to overcome these difficulties and obstacles with help and support only from you as a teacher?
Which of the differences discussed, addresses students having a negative outlook for their future and thinking failure is likely?
A. Relationships
B. Effort
C. Hope and the Growth Mind-Set
Which difference deals with chaotic and disruptive home environments?
A. Relationships
B. Health and Nutrition
C. Distress
Which difference expresses that students from low socioeconomic conditions often perform lower on tests of intelligence and academic achievement?
A. Vocabulary
B. Effort
C. Cognition
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