December 8, 2015

Sarah and I have been working so hard on SLP Toolkit lately that our fitness has been pushed to the wayside. Last week, Sarah said, “How about we get Fitbits?” I had heard of them, but honestly didn’t really care to own one. I knew what I had to do - exercise regularly. I didn’t need a Fitbit to tell me that. But Sarah was so excited she went ahead and ordered one for the both of us.

We got them all set up on Friday night and scheduled a competition to start on Saturday. Within the app, you can challenge each other and monitor your opponent’s and your own progress. I went home wearing my Fitbit and didn’t think another thing about it. That is until 12:00 a.m. rolled around and I was alerted that our challenge officially commenced. Up until that point, I was awake (watching a movie in bed) but in my pajamas, in my deliciously comfortable bed after a long day of work. I thought nothing short of a fire alarm could separate me from my blanket, but something about the buzzing alert on my wrist clicked in my competitive streak. I shot up out of bed and started doing laps around my house. My dog was really confused, and my kids, who were also up watching a movie, thought I was nuts. Sarah, who was just coming home from a friend’s house, was then alerted on her Fitbit that I jumped ahead in steps, so she parked her car and ran up and down the street in her dress and heels.

My point is - competition is a powerful and often overlooked tool for student engagement. It reminded me of a speaker we had in our district a few years back, Dr. Bill McBride, author of Entertaining an Elephant. He presented on the 6 Cs, which are research-based strategies for gaining and keeping the attention of our often difficult to engage students. The 6 Cs stand for:

  1. Choice - student choice of activities/instructional resources/setting, choice of how to demonstrate learning
  2. Collaboration - think/pair/shares, jigsaws, and collaborative games
  3. Connection - using think-alouds, making real-world connections, and using project-based learning
  4. Competition/Challenge - competitive games, challenging or adding on to other’s thoughts, and use of mixed problem sets
  5. Communication - giving timely and specific feedback, allowing asking of questions, grouping students together to share a quick summary of what was learned
  6. Commotion - incorporating movement into activities, using multi-sensory learning

We all want to be engaged, especially when the content/activity itself is not something that intrinsically motivates us. Students with special needs are often already overwhelmed with their learning. Incorporating strategies like those above will help to overcome barriers in classrooms where student passivity, rote learning, and routines prevail.

Working out after a long day is hard. But the challenge option on my Fitbit has lit a new fire under me. The combination of competition and communication has motivated me to get moving again. I won’t say who’s winning today’s challenge, but her name rhymes with Misa.