Today, in the world of smartphones, texting, and instant entertainment, it can often become quite difficult for the students in your classroom to remain engaged in learning. Your students need to be absorbed by what’s going on in your classroom, or they will likely find something else that interests them, even if means sitting at their desk daydreaming.
What can you do to keep your students engaged?
First, eliminate the downtime throughout the day. This does not mean your students should not have a break sometimes, but it should not come in the middle of a lesson. Your goal is to keep your students actively listening and thinking throughout the day. Whether you have a self-contained classroom or otherwise, the moment the downtime creeps in, you will begin to lose the interest of your class.
Engaging your students is not difficult, but it may take some planning on your part, but in the end, it will be worth it because your students will remain energized and focused, which will lead to fewer interruptions and disturbances.
Here are some strategies you can use almost immediately to help keep your students engaged in learning:
- Quick Warm-ups: When students walk into your room, or when transitioning from one subject to another, have a 2 to 3-minute warm-up prepared to get students’ brains active. This could be a brain teaser displayed on the board or on a written slip of paper distributed immediately as students walk into the classroom. It should be interesting and grab their attention.
For example, at the start of a reading class, the warm-up may include counting the number of words displayed in the classroom, asking students to name a favorite character from a book, or writing as many words as possible beginning with a letter of the alphabet.
- Pop Oral Quizzes: During a class presentation or discussion, announce a pop quiz, but all answers will be responded to orally. The questions must be related to the current subject matter, and to help get the blood flowing, tell students to stand. Those who know the answer stand on their “right” foot, those who are unsure, stand on their left foot. Do this as often as necessary during a class discussion or presentation.
- Group-Work Summaries: Your students may often work in pairs or in small groups, but sometimes an off-topic discussion takes over and is not relevant to the assignment or project. While students work in groups, announce a “Pause in the Action” and ask a member of each group to quickly share a one or two-sentence summary of their progress.
- Students’ Names in a Bowl: Write the name of each student on a slip of paper and place them in a bowl to be used when students seem to be losing interest. Tell students that you will pick a random name during the class period and either ask him or her a question or to summarize some of the presented content
- Teaching Style Changes: Students know and become quite familiar with your teaching style and the strategies you use. Mix it up sometimes, use different styles and strategies during your lessons. If you normally have a routine, change it, as this is especially important for older students who can become bored quite easily with a predictable routine.
- Move: Do not remain in one place or area while teaching. Moving throughout the classroom helps students remain alert and tuned in to what you are saying. In addition, use eye-contact with students who may seem to be losing interest or becoming disengaged.
- Use Students’ Interests: Nearly every subject or topic can be personalized to the interests of your students. Make it real for them. For example, your students may find learning about verbs and nouns boring. You can easily ask students to share some of their actions from the previous evening or to tell what persons, places, or things they encountered during the week. Just like adults, children like to talk about themselves too.
- End of Class Wrap-Up: At the end of class, ask students to name five important concepts or ideas from the completed lesson. Randomly call on a student for his or her response, and if they are incorrect, use it as a segue to call on a second student. This can be done during the last one or two minutes of class as students prepare to leave the classroom.
It can often be challenging to keep students engaged, but without engagement, students may not only lose interest in the subject but could later become disinterested in attending school.
Finally, there is a myriad of ways to keep students engaged, and many of the lessons from Learn Bright can help do that as well with thought-provoking content, activities, practice, ideas, and suggestions.