Anning S. Prall Intermediate School, Magnet School with Applied Learning with Technology Integration–located in Staten Island, New York and better known as IS27–is a diverse middle school serving more than 1,100 students. In 2013, IS27’s leaders started partnering with Engaging Schools to increase student engagement in classrooms to improve student behavior and raise achievement. Engaging Schools consultant M.J. Austin worked with the leadership team to guide and plan. This experience offers an example of how Engaged Classrooms services and resources measurably improve teaching and learning.
The school shared three of Engaging Schools’ engagement-related resources with the entire faculty: Making Learning Real, Getting Classroom Management Right, and Activators, and then asked Donna Mehle, co-author of Activators, to deliver a workshop based on the book. “Teachers raved about the experience,” said IS27 Assistant Principal Andrea O’Donnell. “Those who weren’t in the workshop asked us to get Donna back for another so they could participate.” Teachers are now using activators (short activities used at any time during a lesson) to increase classroom engagement and participation (click here for examples of activators). Andrea reports that one teacher said, “I didn’t think the activator Donna suggested would work, but I tried it anyway. I couldn’t believe how engaged the kids were.”
“We’re now seeing strategies and routines used everywhere, in classrooms and beyond,” Andrea continued. “The students experience consistency throughout the school, and we’ve seen an overall improvement in the culture of our school.” An example is a sign on classroom walls that reads “Three Before Me,” reminding students that when they have a question, they are expected to try to answer it themselves using three different sources or methods before asking the teacher. This practice encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.
In recent New York City Department of Education evaluations, IS27 improved to “proficient” in a quality review of the school’s culture of learning, which Andrea credits to their partnership with Engaging Schools.