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How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement

Abstract

"Poverty is an uncomfortable word. Teachers are often unsure what to expect from kids from low-income households and what to do differently as a result. Well-known author and educator Eric Jensen points to seven differences that show up in school between low- and middle-income children. By understanding what they are and how to address them, teachers can help mitigate those differences. Difference 1—health and nutrition—covers the emotional, physical, and mental health supports that students need. Difference 2—vocabulary—makes it clear that without a growing vocabulary, kids are hesitant to take classroom risks. Difference 3—effort and energy—shows readers that kids won't invest much if the odds of success are low. Difference 4—hope and mind-set—accounts for the fact that when belief is lacking or hope is low, effort plummets. With difference 5—cognition—students may back off difficult tasks if they don't think they 'have it.' Difference 6—relationships—shows how impaired relational skills create discipline issues. And finally, difference 7—stress—speaks of the toxic effects on learning of anxiety and chronic stress. Teachers can help students succeed by understanding these seven differences and addressing them with purposeful teaching."

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