Keeping students engaged in a lesson can seem difficult at times, because the truth is, every child learns in a different way. However, keeping students’ attention becomes less of a challenge when utilizing some basic tactics for maximizing student engagement.
BE POSITIVE AND HAVE FUN!
Perhaps the simplest way to ensure your students engage is to go into each day and each lesson with a positive attitude! Kids are going to be a lot more inclined to listen to what you’re saying, and in turn, engage in the lesson when they see that you are excited about the topic and ready to help. Approaching subjects with a positive attitude will also help ease the students’ anxiety surrounding learning new content. No one wants to ask a question about something they don’t understand. Equally, students are unlikely to answer a question they may not know the answer to if they feel like they will be embarrassed for giving a wrong answer. Help students feel safe by staying positive and engagement will follow.
Having a positive attitude also opens the door to being able to have more fun with your students! Find ways to incorporate games in a lesson, be silly, laugh with them, sing and dance for them, or sing and dance together as a class. Whatever your style and comfort level, choose what is right for you and start having fun! Learning should be fun and it is your job to make that happen. Your enthusiasm will be sure to generate higher levels of engagement.
Make Lessons Relevant to Real Life
As students, we all had that moment when we were sitting in a classroom thinking, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” Teaching lessons that are relevant to real-world problems is a great way to get the students engaged. If they feel that they are doing something meaningful and learning something worthwhile, they’ll be much more inclined to put effort into mastering the material.
Making connections to the real world can also make the material easier to understand. Putting things into terms students are familiar with not only peaks their curiosity, but it also increases comprehension. If students see the connection to their lives, it can make lessons easier to understand and increase their motivation to put an effort into their work. Kids, like adults, will find other things to do if they aren’t interested in the topic at hand, so be sure to connect your lessons to topics they find interesting!
Teach With Purpose
No matter what you are teaching, whether it be content or a routine, make sure that there is a purpose behind it! If there is not a purpose behind a lesson or an activity, you’re wasting both your time and your students’ time. Make sure to share with your students the purpose of the activities or routines they are engaging in. This will help keep them engaged and help you avoid defending your lessons against the dreaded statement: “This is pointless!”
Keep it Moving
Students need movement to stay engaged in a lesson. Many adults cannot sit still for an hour at a time, so why do we make children do it? Create opportunities for physical movement in your lessons as much as possible! This could be as simple as having students go across the room to get materials for an activity or pausing for a brief stretch break as a class. You can incorporate movement with content by having students stand and act out vocabulary words in place or stand up to find a partner for a Think/Pair/Share. Getting kids up and moving reduces boredom and even helps the brain! Do your students keep asking to have class outside? Maybe give in once in a while. This gives them some movement and a fresh learning environment. A change in their surroundings is great for giving students a new perspective, which makes it easier to engage.
Along with your students, try to keep your lessons moving as well. Use class time efficiently and plan out transitions within a lesson ahead of time. Students will be less likely to get off task if they know what to do every minute of the lesson. Students also need variety to stay engaged. Anyone would get bored if they walked into a room and did the exact same thing five days a week for nine months out of the year. Giving a variety of lessons keeps things interesting for you and your students. This helps you avoid getting stuck in a rut and it ensures the students don’t get too used to, or bored by, a certain teaching method or activity.
TEACHING Students to Self-Monitor
Teaching students to self-monitor has very positive effects on engagement. Sometimes, students don’t even realize when they’re straying away from the task at hand. When students are taught how to recognize when they lose focus and then self-regulate, they also start to learn personal responsibility. This allows students to keep themselves engaged and motivated, as well as allowing you more flexibility in the classroom.
To do this, check for attention at random points throughout a lesson. Use a chime, for example. Teach students that when they hear that chime, they need to stop wherever they are in the room and reflect: Am I paying attention? Am I on task? Am I in my seat? They can even write their answers on a logging sheet of some kind for their records and for yours. Logging tools are a great way to teach students self-monitoring skills. Another example of this is if your students are required to do a certain amount of reading, have them keep a reading log. This gives students a way to keep a record of their own achievements and provides them with data they can refer to regarding how well they stayed on task.
Give Students Choices
Allowing students some control over their education and the content of their lessons encourages them to engage. We all like to feel in control of our lives; this includes our students. We can give them some control when we provide them with choice during their learning. This could be something as simple as holding a class vote on whether to watch a video pertaining to a certain topic, or splitting into groups to research a topic of their choice and then share their findings with the class. Giving students a stake in their own education encourages them to care, and in turn, engage.
For more ideas and strategies on how to increase student engagement in your classroom, head to Credits for Teachers. While there, K-12 teachers can also enroll in online self-paced Professional Development courses in exchange for graduate credit from our university partner that can be used for salary advancement or license renewal – Learn More Now!