Classroom Miracles Made Simple

Hero Teacher Martha Rivera Alanis

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: How to involve, include and inspire every student, every day.

One teacher told me about her class. At the start of every school year she asks her young elementary level kids, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

One year a kid responded, “I wanna be like my daddy and be on welfare.” Some teachers would have rolled their eyes and thought, “How am I supposed to teach kids in poverty that have a home life like his?”

But this teacher refused to lower her goals or her standards for her kids. She does what high performing teachers often do.

Her strategy? What did she do?

The answer is, “Broaden the kid’s horizons and help him think bigger!”

All year long, she would share interesting micro-trips she made (to national parks, going on car trips to see friends, family, and even short vacations, etc.). Once a week she brought in and showed pictures, ticket stubs, screen shots, souvenirs, admission tickets, etc. to inspire her kids in class, while telling stories of her adventures. The adventures were often modest, but they were outside of the school’s zip code.

At the end of the school year, she asked all her kids the same question that she did at the start of the year. Now, guess what the same kid said? That’s right! The same kid (that said earlier he wanted to be on welfare) is a changed student. How? He had a new concept of what life could be like. He had a high-performing teacher. He now knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. When the teacher called on him at the end of the year, he said, “I wanna be a teacher!” (a true story).

If you want to find out what it takes to become a confident, high-performing teacher working with kids from poverty, lean in and read closely.

ASCD has just released my newest book, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind and it may be the best book I’ve ever written.

First, I open the book with the key research on WHY kids from poverty can be a challenge to engage. Chapter 1 has the “Seven Ways Poverty Affects Engagement”. This list will boggle your mind. Plus, it is chock-a-block filled with strong, peer-reviewed references!

Chapter 2 has the best-kept secret of engaging students with poverty in mind. If you do all the “right things” that you have read to do (from other books), and you still are not getting the results you want, this chapter is for you. Learn the reasons WHY things are NOT working and more importantly, learn WHAT to do differently. For example, has anyone ever taught you how to get kids to “buy-in to” what you’re about to do? Have they ever told you HOW to give directions? I’ll tell you how to do it!

The next chapter, Chapter 3, is what makes the magic happen. This chapter reveals how to build a classroom climate. Learn exactly how to engage students in ways that create a highly positive climate. I’ll show you HOW to boost optimism, raise student expectations, manage their emotions, create family and sustain the positivity, plus WHY you must do the ONE thing that’s MOST important of all.

Jump into Chapter 4 and learn how to “mine the precious metals” of the brain (thinking skills). Here’s where you’ll learn how to engage your students to build much greater cognitive capacity. For example, I’ll show you how to build attention, teach problem-solving skills, boost working memory (activities for these included) and even the “holy grail” of teaching: how to increase student’s self control. By the way, every one of these can, and should, be taught.

Want more effort from your students? I focus an entire chapter on it! Chapter 5 shows you how to engage students for much greater effort. Motivation and classroom effort can, and should, be taught. I’ll show you exactly how to do it. You’ll get five sure-fire strategies which you can use immediately to get students to work like crazy for you!

Are your students struggling with trying to master the content? In Chapter 6, I share the shortest distance between confusion and clarity. Learn to engage for understanding in five simple steps. Get the “ah-ha” moment faster. Plus, my own two bonus strategies are 1) how to engage for accuracy, and 2) how to engage for transfer to other disciplines.

But wait! What about all those energizers and activities that I use in my live events? Jump right into Chapter 7, so you can engage for energy and focus. You’ll get activities for nearly everything! Activities for standing, sitting and moving, as well as ones for pairs, teams and solo. Get ready to have the most engaged classroom of your life.

Next, we move into a simple but powerful idea: how to automate your engagement so that it gets easier and easier every time you do it. You’ll learn about the creation of greater ownership in the process and how to get kids to do 90% of the work while you have more of the fun!

Finally, Chapter 9 takes you to the final frontier. Become the master of your own teaching by learning how to get better, every week, for the rest of your career. You’ll learn how to do an autopsy on any engagement activity. You’ll get better in learning how to think through solutions for never-ending success. This book ends with the best-ever reason to engage your students. By the way, did I tell you how pumped up I am over this book?

Engaging-Students-Poverty- Brain BasedGo to Amazon, right now, to find Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind. The book will cost you two dollars a month for a year ($24). In bulk, order the book for your staff from ASCD at

Read the book and email me your thoughts. Tell me if the book wasn’t worth five times what you paid for it. I’ll bet it becomes one of the most highlighted and used books in the last five years.

Go for it; I promise you’ll love it.

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning,
the Leader in Brain-Based Education

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