Two Words to Inspire My Students This Year: Try and Stun!

I teach college freshmen and soon will meet a new batch of learners. Students who take my class are preparing themselves for their official Freshman English class. This means my students didn’t receive strong scores on their reading and writing exams. I believe reading, writing, and learning is tied to engagement and interest. Everyone can read, write, and learn and likes to but many need don’t like to do any of this in school. I can empathize, because some of my favorite books I hated reading in school. Not until years later when I reread these books apart from the classroom did I truly get to enjoy them. Each semester I try to find new ways to help my students discover how they like to read, write, and learn. I also try to find new ways to motivate them to stay in college and stick it out, because when you teach college freshmen the retention rate is quite low. Many times by the end of the semester I might have as many as 40% actually make it through. This year I’ve decided to combine the One Word challenge with my Digital Vision Board idea and Buncee template students complete. Below are two examples of my words for my students, which are Try and Stun. Feel free to use the following example template with your students who are free to copy and edit as they like.  They will need a free Buncee account to do this.

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I chose the word, “Stun,” for my students, because I want them to astonish people with their courage, determination, creativity, ideas, passions, and talents. I was inspired by seeing the audition from Britain’s Got Talent 2017, winner, Tokio Myer, which I’ve shared below. Tokio stuns the audience in the way he plays the piano. His expressions show you how much he loves to play the piano. In the audition, Tokio, shares how he grew up poor, but one day walked into a hall of music in London and decided to work hard till he received a scholarship to attend.


Try has always been the word I tell my students they need to do to succeed in my class. As long as they attempt every assignment and strive to attend every class then they will make an A or B. If I see they are trying then I will work with them. I was inspired by seeing the audition from America’s Got Talent deaf contestant, Mandy Harvey. In the example below, Mandy performs her original song, Try. She shares her story how she went deaf at 18 and lost her music career and everything she loved. She almost quit on life, but decided one day she had to try to dream again and try music again.

I hope one of these examples really touches my students this year and gets them to strive at completing their education and chasing their passions. My students come from poor areas of the city and my community college is a step towards a brighter future for them and their families. In some cases they will be like me and be part of the first generation to graduate from college. I’ll keep you updated on which of my efforts motivate them the most!

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, instructional designer, adjunct professor, and the author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform Your Teaching and Learning to Go: Lesson Ideas for Teaching with Mobile Devices, Cell Phones and BYOT. She has been recognized by the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, the Ministry of Education in Spain, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as an innovator in the movement of teacher-driven professional development and education technology. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year 2014 by Star Jone’s National Association of Professional Women and awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, the Twitter chat that spurred over 400 teacher chats. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 25 countries and has consulted with organizations worldwide such as UNESCO Bangkok, The European Union aPLaNet Project, Cultura Iglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, and VenTESOL. She shares regularly via, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), and Her greatest joy is being the mother of Rosco the pug.


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