How to Increase Student Engagement with Equitable Teaching Practices

In this episode of the Empower Students Now podcast, Amanda introduces her new course, The Empowered English Classroom, which aims to increase student engagement through equitable teaching practices. Amanda discusses the Empowered English Classroom Framework, which includes steps for increasing student engagement, implementing equitable grading practices, and developing a systematic planning system. Amanda emphasizes the importance of building relationships, avoiding biases, and adapting teaching methods to meet students’ needs. The course starts on June 3, 2023, and teachers who sign up will receive all the necessary resources to implement the framework. The episode concludes with a reminder to think about how their classroom can become an empowered one.


How would you like to learn about how to dramatically increase student engagement using equitable teaching practices? If this sounds like something you would be interested in, then please click the link in the description of this episode because that link will take you to a Google form where you can sign up for my brand new course that is coming out June 3rd called The Empowered English Classroom. This is a transformational course for English teachers who want to increase student engagement with equitable teaching practices. It’s brand new, and it’s needed now more than ever because of teacher burnout, the social justice movement, and just the critical importance of adapting our teaching practices with the changing times. I am so excited for you to learn about this course that I’ve actually created this entire episode all about one aspect of the course that I am providing that is called the Empowered English Classroom Framework.

This framework is my step-by-step process for increasing student engagement, implementing equitable grading practices, and developing a systematic yet flexible planning system. So in this course, we’ll also have five coaching calls, so that are one hour each. And if you can’t attend live, you can submit questions in advance and I’ll give you links to replays. You’ll also receive, uh, my course master checklist, which is a checklist of actionable steps you can take and then check off as you go through the course. My editable Student inventory, which is an editable Google sheet you can utilize to learn and track information about your students. The Engagement toolkit, a PDF document of over 50 engagement tips, strategies, and games to use in your classroom. My unit planning templates, a Google Doc unit, uh, template that you can edit, a year long planning template that you can edit editable assessment tools. Pre-assessments, formative assessments and summative assessments, conference tracking sheets that are editable, my equitable grading cycle method, a framework to help teachers reduce the amount of time they spend grading and make equitable grading a priority. My flex planning system, a simple system of planning that allows for flexibility and adaptability based on the students in front of you and what they need. The first two weeks of school lesson plans and activities that can make sh that can increase student engagement and ensure that you are implementing equitable teaching practices and my equitable conferencing approach and approach to conferencing with students that’s practical and doable and equitable. So, and there’s videos. There’s five modules, so I’ll go ahead and tell you what each module is. There’re also going to be, uh, audio downloads. If you can’t watch a video, you can download the audios. So the first module is all about the Empowered English Classroom framework, which I’m gonna actually give a brief overview of that in this episode.

Module two is all about creating an equitable English classroom. How do you do that? It’s not just about the books and the things you’re reading, it’s much more than that. And then module three is all about student engagement. How can you increase student engagement? How can you support those students who are really struggling with reading and writing in your classroom? And how can you do it in a manageable way? Uh, and then module four is all about assessing students equitably. Module five is how to put it all together and prepare for the first two weeks of school. So again, if you’re interested at all in joining this brand new course that I have coming out in June, go ahead and click the link in the description of this episode. Welcome to the Empower Students Now podcast, a podcast about equity, neurodiversity, mindfulness and student engagement. There’s a lot that needs to change in our education system. The good news is teachers have the power to make these changes. Now.

All right, so what is the Empowered English classroom framework? What even is an empowered English classroom? So, in my opinion, an empowered English classroom has an empowered teacher. So an empowered teacher is a teacher who has all the tools that she or he needs to support their students and to implement equitable teaching practices. A teacher who knows what they’re doing and feels competent and sure that they are on the right track, but also are not burned out and overworking themselves, trying to implement all of these things. In my opinion, that’s what an empowered teacher is. And also, an empowered English classroom has empowered students, students who also have the tools that they need in order to be successful at learning and retaining what they learn in your classroom. And that is directly, directly related with equity. Equity is all about giving students what they need to succeed in your classroom.

Students need different things. So again, equity is not equality, equality is equal, right? Everyone’s getting equal, like the same thing, right? Equal amounts of the same thing. Equity is is not that. Equity is about giving students what they need to succeed and to access the content that you’re teaching. And, and that’s the hard part, right? The differentiation based on student needs. And I developed this course to help you streamline all of this, to make sure that you are putting in place a system that works and that that empowers both you and your students. So what is the empowered English classroom framework? So again, it’s related to students and teachers. Both students and teachers are empowered in an empowered English classroom, okay? So here are the things that need to be in place in order for you to have an empowered English classroom. So let’s talk about students first.

So students, in order for students to feel empowered in your classroom, to feel like they have a say that their voice matters, that they feel seen and heard by not only the teacher but their peers. So it’s all about student engagement, engaging students. Student engagement is students care about what you’re doing in the classroom. They wanna be there and they understand why what they’re doing matters and is important, and they wanna be there. So it’s not just about teaching fun lessons. Here’s what it is about. It’s about making relationships priority number one. So students get to talk to each other in your classroom. They get to build friendships and relationships with each other. Students get to quote-unquote play with each other, whether that means they’re playing online with their phones or their Chromebooks, they have built-in time to interact with each other when it comes to their interests, not just necessarily the academics you’re doing in your classroom.

When we over-prioritize our content, relationships suffer. So relationships are priority number one. There’s time built into your classroom to talk about life stuff. Also, teachers are aware of their own biases, your attitude, your beliefs, your thoughts, whether you say them out loud or not, impact students. And here are some really, really common biases teachers have about students, assuming students are lazy, that’s a bias. So when you label a student in your mind, lazy, you have a bias sitting there and it is impacting your students. So being aware, when that thought comes up, that that’s a bias. Labeling it, noting it, and this is actually a mindfulness practice, being able to note and label these things when they come up in your mind, in your brain, assuming students only care about grades and nothing else, assuming students don’t like your class or they don’t like you, maybe they’re out to get you.

This is a bias, assuming students didn’t try hard enough or study hard enough, these are really, really common that we have to be aware of because if we have them, it’s going to deteriorate the relationships that we have with our students. So always, always, always realize that there might be something else going on under the surface that’s causing the behavior that is being exhibited by students. That just going straight to lazy, going straight to you, didn’t try hard enough, that’s a problem in your own mind. Okay? And in my course, I’m gonna talk a lot about how we can kind of transform these thoughts. Uh, okay, so still on student engagement in your classroom, if you want students to be engaged, then you have to listen to them. , you have to incorporate their interests, their opinions, and you have to get their feedback, anonymous feedback.

So it’s honest. That goes a long way with students. When they know that their teacher is interested in what they have to say, they’re more likely to be engaged when you have something to say, right? I mean, it’s reciprocal. They’re little humans. And you know, it’s a back and forth. It’s a respect thing. Like if you respect them, they are more likely to respect you. Uh, teachers in order to increase student engagement are vulnerable and honest about their own weaknesses, and maybe share stories from their own childhood and their own experiences as a student. Kids perk up when their teacher starts talking about their own life and their own. And I mean, unless you do it too much, then they start to bore and snore. But if it’s really applicable to like what students are experiencing, uh, then it can really, really increase student engagement.

When you’re able to talk about your own weaknesses and your own vulnerabilities and the things that you’ve struggled with and try things out that you’re making your students do, you know, try to try to write that paper that you’re having students write and, and realize the struggles that you have. Because if you’re struggling, the students in your class are too. And, uh, so next, so student engagement is so key in this framework, okay? That’s why I talked about it first. Next, in order to have an empowered English classroom, teachers need tools that are editable for planning and assessing. And the reason that they need these tools to be editable is because teachers need to be empowered. When, when we, what happens when we hand teachers over canned curriculum, curriculum that was written by publishing companies who’d throw everything at it, you know, like it’s overwhelming for teachers when they’re handed canned curriculum and told to teach it to Fidelity, you know, and you have to teach this.

This is actually happening in my district right now, and teachers, some teachers who are brand new, it’s so good for them. It’s good. It’s, it’s helpful. Thank you. Thank you district, thank you school for giving me something, you know, that I can use. And actually, I’m going to be teaching high school next year, which is, I think that’s the first time I’ve announced that on this podcast. Yes, I am teaching high school next year. I’m so excited. Uh, I’m gonna be teaching freshman English one, one section of freshman English and two E L D English Language Development classes. Uh, so I’m teaching part-time and I’m super excited and I, um, I need curriculum. You know, I want to s I’m brand new to teaching freshman English, and I want to see what the curriculum is that the district has. I wanna read it this summer.

Um, and the ELD curriculum those things are important to have, you know, they give te teachers a foundation. They ha it’s like a safety net, but often this canned curriculum is too much and it’s overwhelming, and we kind of have to pick and choose what we want to use, what looks most interesting, what students might be most interested in. And, you know, we end up kind of doing this patchwork thing, which is totally fine. I mean, teaching is a creative endeavor. This is, we, we are creative humans, teachers, and I mean, maybe you’re not, some teachers just teach, the canned curriculum and just word for word, right? And that can get really dull and engagement can, can decrease. Uh, and, and I mean, it’s, it’s hard, but I believe teachers in order to feel empowered, need curriculum that they can adapt and edit and be creative with, right?

But they also need tools that are editable to assess students. So the reason that teachers need editable assessment tools is because they need to find out what students know and don’t know, and then design the assessments based on what students don’t know and what students most need. And so being able to edit the assessment based on what students need is really, really important. I also think that we shouldn’t be assessing so many things in one unit. We should just really focus on the things that are most desperately needed by the majority of students. Okay? The next thing that teachers need in an empowered English classroom is systems effective, repeatable systems for planning, for teaching, and for assessing. These need to be like rinse and repeat systems. Because if we don’t have systems, if we don’t have things in place, and we’re just kind of all over the place, which I’ve definitely spent many years as a teacher is so chaotic, switching from one thing to another to another because it just sounded interesting and fun.

I’ve definitely been there, done that. And it’s rough, you know, it can really be rough. It can be like, we feel like we’re just flying by the seat of our pants and we’re, you know, just living day to day with no, like direction. And it’s like, what am I gonna do today? You show up, what am I gonna do today? And that can be really overwhelming and, uh, stressful and cause burnout. And so teachers really need systems and the system that I really love, but also I realize there’s problems with is workshop. So the reason that I love workshops so much is because it is a system. It’s a system for planning, it’s a system for teaching, and it’s a system for assessing because conferences are embedded into it. And so conferences are one way to assess. And so for planning, you’re planning mini lessons.

So your lessons are short and sweet and to the point. And, um, and, and same with teaching, right? And so, but there are problems with workshops. So when students can’t work independently for, you know, 20 minutes straight, then the mini lesson needs to go to guided practice where the teacher and the students and the whole class come back together and you kind of do things together as an entire class, right? And actually, this gets me to the next thing that you need to be, have an empowered English classroom. And to be an empowered English teacher, adaptability, you have to be able to adapt to what your students need in the moment. If you notice your students are not being productive or are, you know, they could be really confused. They, they need your guidance. You stop everything and you bring them back in together as a whole class.

Do more direct instruction, answer kids’ questions in the moment. Have a discussion, right? Like row workshop, like don’t throw it out the window, but put it to the side and let’s do some whole class stuff together, right? Just being able to adapt it to students and their needs is so important. So having systems, but also being able to adapt them that day or that week or that month, um, and, and change and, and be, be flexible with how we’re teaching and the methods we’re using to teach. So that’s the empowered English classroom framework, and I will delve much more into it in the course. And teachers who sign up for the course will receive all the tools to, to implement the Empowered English classroom framework. And, uh, I really, really hope you consider joining. We start June 3rd, so that is around the corner. So if you’re interested in joining us, please do so. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. I hope that even if you don’t join the course this summer, maybe you can next summer. I hope this episode helped you in one way or another to start to think about how your classroom can become an empowered one. Thanks for listening.


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