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For the love of planes

When I worked at a specialized school for children with notable social, emotional, and behavioural needs, many of the students struggled with reading. On one occasion, I was working with a student who refused to look at any books. Initially, I picked a variety of books and placed them on the table. He dismissed each one. I then decided that I would focus on the child’s interests as a way of engaging him. I knew from past conversations that the student loved airplanes. I went and gathered any and all books I could find on airplanes. The following day, we sat down and I laid the airplane books down on the table. After a couple of minutes, he opened several books and began to talk about the pictures. This is a common practice for beginning readers to interact and discuss images and make connections with their lives. This experience highlights one of the factors that's key to increasing engagement: paying attention to learners' interests. It matters how we listen for, and then integrate interests into the design of our program.

For more ideas about increasing engagement with learners you support, e-mail Katy at


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