Series Creating Success in Middle School: Micromessages in the STEM Classroom

Micromessages in the STEM Classroom

Lesson Objective: Use language to engage all students in STEM
All Grades / All Subjects / Equity


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What are micromessages?
  2. How can language affect the learning environment?
  3. How can educators use language to help students develop growth mindsets?


  • Private message to Paula Pleasant

Paula Pleasant

Yes!! positive langage and positive is very importanat and can be the difference between a student giving it all they have to try versus giving up.

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  • Private message to Michael Stires

Micromessages are small, subtle messages, sometimes subconscious, that are communicated between people often without saying a word. Photo Credit: Intel Free Press. Micromessages include looks, gestures, tone of voice, or the framing of feedback. Language is the primary medium of learning in students, our skills are demonstrated through words or written language. Educators can use language to empower students by impowering them to push student’s development with gestures, their tone of voice and the framing of how the feedback is expressed to them.  

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  • Private message to Priscilla Gough-Grinage

Excellent video on Micromessaging.  Something we often forget to do.  This video is a reminder of why we teach.  To inspire and gently push our students to be more than they ever thought they could be.

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  • Private message to Bree Levitz

I liked the video.  When I was teaching older students I would call them mathematicians.  I would say good Morning Mathmaticians.  What is our goal in math today?  They would reply with the goal that was written on the board for that day.  I think that positive, off the cuff comments make for a more positive atmosphere for the students and make them feel like they can succeed.  I tell my first graders all the time that when they can't do something I remind them that they can't do it yet but they will get it.

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  • Private message to Kathleen Guillot
The presentation was wonderful but positive statements and affirmations have been around for a long time. This is just a new word for it. Why not call it macromessaging and make clear affirming statements that children build upon to each other in group.
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  • Speaker 1: We are already following the pathway of engineering design. You see how similar this is to the scientific

    Speaker 1: We are already following the pathway of engineering design. You see how similar this is to the scientific method? Micro-messaging to reach every student is a research-based program that’s designed to empower educators to improve student access and to create equitable learning environments for every student to have success.

    Speaker 2: You think you can do that? I believe that you can.

    Speaker 1: Micro-messages are small, subtle unconscious messages that we send and receive when we interact with others.

    Speaker 2: Again, engineers do not work in isolation. It’s a collaborative effort! I’m loving what I see.

    Speaker 1: There are two types of micro-messages. There are micro-affirmations, and these make students feel valued. They make students feel welcome, whereas micro-inequities, they make students feel de-valued, or excluded. And so we help teachers come to a place of better understanding of what these barriers are, and how they exist, and how to start to counteract some of those barriers and begin to address those in a classroom.

    Speaker 2: Alright, so even if your structure failed, that’s not a failure for you. [pause] My personal philosophy is that if I stop growing, if I stop learning, then it’s time for me to leave the profession.

    Speaker 1: We help teachers with strategy so that they can see how can they use positive micro-affirmations to build students self-efficacy.

    Speaker 2: Right now, like, we’re pushing [?] in staying still.

    Speaker 3: So you’re testing it as you’re building?

    Speaker 2: Yes. The micro-messaging academy has been an instrumental part of my growth this year. I would like someone new to speak who hasn’t spoken yet. They have provided me with valuable feedback. It is group testing time! Guys and ladies. For example, I refer to my students as guys often, and going through the academy has made me aware of that, and if I want to label them, I can label them as my future engineers. [pause] Good morning, my future scientists. How are my engineers doing over here? Can I get another one of my lady engineers to speak up?

    Speaker 4: You get to see a continuing improvement in yourself. Which way is it leaning? And you get to see how the learning environment is developed with each student that has to deal with [?], and you’re driven by the data that you collect.

    Speaker 5: It gives kids the ability to go from, ”I can’t do it” to maybe, I can’t do it yet.” Maybe you go completely full-circle to where they say, “I can do it.”

    Speaker 2: How tall is that? 26. How tall is this?

    Speakers: [talking]

    Speaker 2: You don’t know yet. 13. I want them to feel like they want to continue on and to keep pushing. You can make it better. You have the capabilities to do so.

    Speaker 5: It’s just another way to reach kids on another level and give them a sense of equality.

    Speaker 1: These teachers, they feel empowered to challenge some of those deeply rooted cultural stereotypes and messages that have persisted, and we can begin to become aware of how these things manifest in our language, and really help build our students up so that every student has access, equity, and opportunity to ultimately improve the diversity of our workforce, and our work.

    Speaker [?]: You think you can help both at once.

    Speaker: No! We can try it.

    Speaker [?]: Alright. It has already opened my eyes to how communication can frame success and achievements.

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