Do I Feel Like Learning Today?

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Jan. 10, 2020, 12:17 p.m.

It’s Monday morning and many students have arrived at school feeling tired or even stressed after a weekend of busyness. Some students move slowly to prepare for the day, while others put their heads down, ready to go back to sleep. In the worst case scenario, some students may have experienced trauma-filled weekends and their brains are still in fight or flight. So do they feel like learning? Probably not. Do students have a choice about whether they feel like learning?

Actually, we all do. According to Robert Marzano, all learning begins with the self-system. Each learner enters the learning situation with four questions that determine whether they will engage in the learning or not. In order to survive, our brains filter all incoming information to decide how to react. We ask ourselves “How do I feel? Am I interested? Is this important? Can I do this?” These questions determine the degree of engagement in whatever learning opportunity we are presented with.

The first question is “How do I feel?” seems to be the one that keeps a lot of students from reaching their daily learning potential, being tired and lacking energy. If a student comes in feeling tired, stressed, unfocused, anxious, or having other worries on their mind, it’s quite likely they aren’t going to feel much like learning. For many students, this happens a lot on Monday. The weekend was busy or stressful and who likes Monday anyway? Unfortunately, in many classrooms, Monday is heavy in new learning, so many gaps are created because the student isn’t in a learning mind frame.

So, what can teachers do about this? Quite a bit, actually!

Let’s Rock!

While we can’t do much about kids who lack sleep, we can try energizers throughout the day. Play upbeat music throughout the day. Music has the potential to change our mood and give us energy. The rhythm and lyrics can get the heart and head going, producing smiles, increasing the feel-good hormones, and pumping some positive message and energy into our day. Combine the music with some exercise and movement to energize and get the blood flow going to our brains rather than our glutei maximi. Just 16 minutes of sitting can redirect blood flow and make us feel tired.

Small Wins All Day Long

Keep celebrating the little victories throughout the day with descriptive feedback that lets the student know their effects are noticed and moving them forward in the learning. Statements about effort and thinking helps develop positive feelings and upshift thinking. Saying “Look at you summarizing that story with plot elements! You got this!”.

Is This Interesting and Important?

Passion is Contagious. Being passionate about the learning helps students develop the same sense of urgency. Passion is such a positive emotion. In the TED TALK “Every Child Needs a Champion,” Rita Pierson describes a day she taught a lesson all wrong. The next day, she shared with her students that she had made a mistake and needed to reteach the lesson. Her students told her it was okay. They said “You were so passionate, we didn’t want to stop you!”

Great Beginnings!

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

Start 2020 off with great beginnings to your student's day! Here are some fun ideas.


  • Play fun music as students enter the classroom
  • Gather for a morning meeting
  • Sing one favorite song together
  • Share a joke (could even be content related!)
  • Have students share a celebration in their life
  • Do a team building activity
  • Have a 2 minute dance party
  • Kick off the day with karaoke (1-2 songs)
  • Play a relationship building game (like Friends Wanted or ABC's of Me)
  • Do some yoga moves
  • Celebrate birthdays

Get thinking started:

  • Do one or two book talks to spark interest
  • Start with a number talk or challenging problem to solve
  • Read aloud
  • Write or read a message to your students
  • Share the daily agenda

Research says that during the first 5-10 minutes of class learners either check in or out, so start by connecting to students on an emotional and interest-driven level.

End each day with a great ending that gets students reflecting on their day. End with a bang!

Great Ways to End:

  • Class meeting to celebrate and reflect on learning
  • Set goals for the next day
  • Create a Tweet or #hashtag for the daily highlights
  • Share books or suggestions for reading at home
  • Remind students to look for math all around
  • Sing your way out the door
  • Do a team building task
  • Read Aloud a poem or story to your students
  • Have students share an appreciation, apology, or Aha

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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