Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners

Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners: Strategies to Help Students Thrive in School and Beyond

By Larry Ferlazzo 

My top five takeaways: 

1. Ferlazzo focuses on building relationships with students as a way to curb classroom management issues.  

“Building relationships with students is a cornerstone of effective teaching, including classroom management (Ferlazzo, 2011, p. 6). By emphasizing this practice, educators can, at the same time, model that behavior for their students and demonstrate that relationship-building is also a critical skill for learning” (63).

Ferlazzo goes on to offer mini-lessons to “set the stage” for building these relationships. He has lessons on Boredom, Gratitude, Fighting, and Poverty and the Adolescent Brain.  

2. The transfer of learning is another area of Ferlazzo’s book that really resonated with me.

“Transfer is a, if not the, primary purpose of schooling. We want our students to be able to apply the knowledge and skills they learn with us to other challenges inside and outside of school-the goal of our English class is not to have students pass the exam, but to be competent critical life-long writers and readers; the goal of studying history is not to memorize the dates of major battles, but to develop a broad historical perspective that they can apply to understanding the world around them today and in the future” (123). 

I think this gives some traditional and not so traditional educators something to think about. Sometimes we lose sight of our ultimate goal: making students life-long learners and forward thinkers.

3. Ferlazzo gives an assignment that I am definitely going to institute in my classroom. He assigns homework for students to use a strategy they learned in one class and apply it in another class. As an ELA teacher, I am ecstatic, especially with the current focus on literacy across the curriculum. This assignment teaches students to reach beyond a single classroom.

4. Ferlazzo also reminds educators of some best practices that might have been pushed out of the way by the craze of test prep and performance.

“Praising effort and the specific work of students instead of their intelligence will help them lose their fear of making mistakes . . .” (6).

We want our students to be okay with making mistakes, with failing, because they know they can redo and do better with our help. 

5. This is probably a more controversial topic, but Ferlazzo is a proponent of choice and voice in the classroom and suggests giving students 20 percent of the time to work on something of their choice. I can hear the "gasps" and the "whats" now. However, I think this can work if done correctly. 

“Try implementing 20 percent time in your classroom. This classroom learning activity has been inspired by a number of business initiatives, particularly Google’s history of giving its employees 20 percent of their time to work on a project of their choosing. A growing number of educators are applying this to the classroom-whether as a literal 20 percent time project one day each week or as an occasional lesson” (19).

Overall, there is a lot of applicable information in this book. There are detailed lesson plans and resources. Check it out.