Friday, July 23, 2010

Meeting the Needs of Students

Well, this is my new blog. I have been thinking about writing about student needs for awhile and finally got enough energy to do it.

In the fall of 2007 I attended a P.I. conference and learned about William Glasser's Control Theory. Basically, Glasser says we all have 5 basic needs, one physical and four psychological. If all needs are being met then people will be happy. Translation for a classroom teacher: If we meet the needs of our students we will have happier students; Hence, more learning.

So, what are the needs?

1. Survival: Food, shelter, water, etc.

2. Fun: anything that gives us pleasure, enjoyment.

3. Freedom: This means choices. Freedom to choose what you do.

4. Power/Success: Being successful. When you are successful it increases your self-esteem.

5. Love/Belonging: Feeling loved through family, friends, being a part of a team, organizations, etc. Not feeling lonely.

The way I plan my lessons is influenced by these needs. I try to ensure that the lessons and class activities contain all 5 needs.

Here are a few examples of how I meet each need:

Fun: 1. Hands on activities. 2. Sometimes I take the last 5 minutes of a class and show a few funny videos from the pod cast The best of You Tube. 3. Any type of game like heads up 7 up. 4. Cooking- baking bread in a bread maker. 5. Pizza party.

Freedom: 1.I allow students to sit where they want. If their choice becomes a disturbance, I talk with them to solve this problem. 2. Giving students choices in assignments is well received. Ex. The way they choose to do a novel assignment is a good way to meet this need. Do they do a report, diorama, play, etc. You can give them the choice.

Power/success: Ensuring that all students have a chance to succeed is essential. If some are not good at tests, they might be good at debating, acting, music or art. I ensure I give them the opportunity to succeed at their strength.

Love/belonging: I greet my students at the door each day. I have a calendar board for the month where I write various birthdays or events the students have that month. This makes each student feel included. Group activities are good too for meeting this need.

Survival: If a student is hungry they can get a juice and a snack at the office. We also have a breakfast program.

Some activities meet all 4 psychological needs at the same time. I like those.

I teach the needs to my students at the beginning of the year and review them throughout. If they do get upset for some reason I discuss which need is not being met and I ask the student to try and solve their problem. They come up with their own plan. If it is realistic we put it into action. (For some major problems such as fighting or drugs, it is dealt with by the office under our school policy.)

Like most teachers, I was meeting some needs for students before I learned about Control Theory. Now, however, I have a better understanding of why students behave the way they do. Through this understanding I questioned my old classroom practices and changed a lot of my ways. As a result of my change, my class is a happier place.

Thanks for reading.


  1. What an interesting viewpoint, Nunavut! I agree with you as to students' needs and about how important it is to meet them. Students need to feel respected and at ease to be able to learn. Giving them choices is a way of encouraging learnes' autonomy, which will help them become full time learners.

  2. I like your use of the words, "respected and at ease." It definitely allows for a better learning environment.

  3. Great to witness the debut of Against the Wind. Hope it's the beginning of a long and successful run in spreading your ideas and insights even further.

    Your classroom sounds like a happy and progressive place. The point about love and belonging really resonates with me. That's true of any group learning environment. The comfort that comes from being valued and respected is so essential.

    Again, big welcome!

  4. Thank you so much Raman! I was feeling left out as so many excellent educators had blogs and I was only thinking about it. No time like the present. --Brian (Real Name)

  5. Congrats on your opening post. I agree, that as educators, if we can remember these 5 basic needs, we will be able to reach ALL of our students. Looking forward to more insight and thought in your future posts. :)

  6. Congrats on the new blog! I love your first post! It is important to keep students engaged and show we care about them. I like your calendar idea and I did the same with my high school students. They listed every birthday as well as their awards ceremonies, games, etc. Everyone was encouraged to attend and students in the class did. It was a great way to build community and made the students build better relationships with their peers and me.

  7. Thank you so much Shelly for your comments and the RT! Relationship building is so important in teaching. Without it I could not have the best learning environment for my students. Thanks again.(Brian)

  8. Just finished reading your post. Loved your thoughts. I especially like how you allow the kids to decide where they want to sit. I did the same thing last year and what a difference it made. My students made good choices about where to sit so they could do their best learning (I teach gr. 2). No problems and it resulted in a happier students because they were in charge of their own learning.
    I think you're on your way to a great year.

  9. Thank you April for your comments. Congratulations on letting your students choose their space. I will be writing more on this topic- freedom- at a later date.

  10. Hi Brian,
    wonderful stuff.
    before we can begin to create substainable change in student behavior our students need to know why they behave the way they do. Creating a great learning environment is the first step.

  11. Thanks Don. I started teaching my students today about the needs. I usually wait for about 2 weeks before I introduce the needs. I like to get the students before I do that. Indeed, creating a great learning environment first is the key.

  12. Great!!!! Thanks. I'll be using it.

  13. Muy buena información. Práctica.