Think back to your own days as a student. Remember those teachers who ultimately inspired you to become a teacher yourself? Those teachers who unlocked your confidence, creativity, sense of community … your thirst for knowledge? What did those great, memorable teachers have in common?
If a lesson has stuck with you for decades, the teacher in question was surely doing something right in the engagement department, and we all want to bring that same sense of wonder and excitement to our own students! Let’s try to tap into what made makes certain teaching styles and lessons so engaging.
7 student engagement strategies
1. Get students interested
When beginning a new lesson, introducing a new topic, or even reinforcing prior knowledge, you should always kick things off in a memorable way — because if you captivate your students at the outset, they’ll be much more receptive to the lesson at hand.
Perhaps when diving into poetry you share the music and lyrics to a well-loved song and dissect the ways that poetry exists in the world. Or maybe you’ll kick off a science lesson with an experiment that captures your students’ attention and makes them excited to discover more.
2. Discuss current events
The world is full of interesting information and stories that can give your lessons a sense of immediacy and a higher level of importance. Making connections with real-world events will engage students and make them feel like they’re learning truly relevant information. This can be applied to any grade level and subject. Science and social studies lessons are especially fantastic opportunities for drawing in the outside world, but don’t discount the possibilities in other areas. Maybe your first-grade students are learning about animals and can track the development of the new baby panda at your local zoo. Or perhaps your high schoolers are exploring calculus or physics and can map out the latest feat of engineering in your local city. The opportunities are endless, and pulling from current topics and events can inspire a new level of passion from your students.
Science and social studies lessons are especially fantastic opportunities for drawing in the outside
3. Allow your students to take ownership of their learning
If students are permitted to choose their own adventure, so to speak, they will be inherently engaged. Students of all ages can pick their own research topic, a genre for reading, presentation format … you get the idea. There are plenty of ways to achieve learning objectives creatively. And giving students greater academic freedom and flexibility is an easy way to increase engagement.
If your sixth-grader is writing a research paper about their favorite scientist or sports star, they’ll be learning what you need them to about the writing process, with the added bonus of genuinely caring about the information they’re uncovering.
4. Let students assume various roles in the classroom
Everyone wants to fit in, and every teacher wants that all-important sense of community in their classroom. Students who feel comfortable and confident that they are contributing to the classroom community will be more engaged in their learning.
Looking for some ideas? Incorporate a ‘star of the day’ in younger grades or class “jobs” with regular rotations for any grade level. When assigning experiments, projects, and group work, make sure each student has a well-defined role and responsibility — sometimes playing to their natural strengths and othertimes encouraging students to step out of their comfort zone. Your students will be engaged as they jump into their own special role and will gain a sense of accomplishment with their unique contributions.
5. Make ample use of technology
Smartboards, tablets, and other tech devices offer excellent opportunities for student engagement in today’s online world. Interactive sites and apps will have students thoroughly engaged in the classroom while helping them develop essential technology skills. The world can be at your student’s fingertips when you embrace all that tech has to offer.
Independent learning can flourish with tablets, where students can zero in on what interests them most. Smartboards can be used to get everyone on the same page with a game, video, or other activity, and the time will simply fly by.
Need some inspiration? Take a look at these 10 examples of modern classroom technology.
6. Have a little fun
Learning can sometimes happen in more roundabout ways, and when students (and their teacher!) are having fun, some really memorable learning is guaranteed to happen.
It can be something as simple as a math game, five-minute ‘fun writes’ where students spend five minutes writing about fun topics (eg., a dream job, the best summer memory ever, or their happiest day), or an outdoor science lesson or nature walk. In any case, your goal is to step away from the regular grind and spring something unexpected and fun on students.
Learning can happen in so many ways, and when your students are having a great time and simultaneously learning, everyone wins.
7. Teacher engagement = student engagement
What are you as the teacher passionate about? What books or stories excite you? What kinds of activities do you look forward to weeks in advance? An engaged teacher will be much more likely to have engaged students — follow your own interests, and your excitement will become infectious.
Let your students get to know you and the topics that most fascinate you. They’ll probably have a great time alongside you and will come to appreciate the importance of fun in education, something that’ll benefit them for a lifetime.
Think about incorporating drama activities into your English class. Have students act out a favorite scene from the book you’re all reading or reading the character’s dialogue aloud in class, with roles changing each day. Begin a whole-class art project, such as a large mural on paper.
You’ll know you’re doing something right when the lunch bell rings and you have to actually insist that students leave, rather than seeing them anxiously waiting for noon. Show that you want to be there in that classroom and that you’re pumped about what you teach, and the atmosphere will be irresistible.
Student engagement is a game changer!
Add some or all of these tips and you’ll be well on your way to having engaged students who will be making memories and gaining knowledge that will last forever. Who knows? You might just earn an honored spot in the minds of your students and become that special teacher who inspires an amazing career choice or a future of pursuing knowledge with unending curiosity … and what an incredible impact to have on your students! Student engagement is totally achievable and can easily change your students’ lives. So go on — have a little fun and create awesome memories. Your spot as an all-time favorite teacher awaits!
Student engagement is totally achievable and can easily change your students’ lives. So go on — have a little fun and create awesome memories. Your spot as an all-time favorite teacher awaits!
Photo credit: Laurie Sullivan; Branden Harvey / Flickr.com; Unsplash.com