How can you increase student engagement?
Here are five things that create student engagement in my classes:
1. Be real, be firm, and be consistent:
2. Don’t just teach what to learn; focus on how to learn:
For the most part, what we are doing in our classes is not rocket science. However, students can easily get stumped because they just don’t know what to do and, more importantly, how to do it. We can’t always assume that they know how to interpret, analyze, revise, etc. just because they should have learned how to do it in earlier grades.
You would never hand a new driver keys and say “drive”; instead you’d get in that car with him or her and show them what to do. I’ve been guilty many times in the past of telling my students to complete a task, without showing them. Now that I focus on the learning process, my students are much more engaged.
And I don’t stop at showing them either. I build in activities that require they actually go through the process when it comes to analysis and revision, for example. Most of us teachers are students by nature. We know how to learn. The greatest gift we can give our students is to teach them how to as well. I blog about process activities quite often: check out this a recent post.
3. Create activities that give students the challenge that they need:
If the task you give your students is too easy, it can be a little boring. If it’s too hard, they’ll get frustrated. Ideally, you give them something that’s exactly what they need. Dan Pink, author of Drive, calls these Goldilock’s taks because they are “just right”. When a student feels that they can do it, they will. How do you do this in your classroom? After you’ve given your students the tools they need to do a complex task, give them an activity that requires them to reach a little further than they have before, something that requires them to synthesize information they have on hand and to use the skills you’ve been working on. Resist the urge to tell them how to do it and be there to facilitate their learning. You can read about how I did this with my class HERE.
4. Give them a reason, and give them variety:
Whenever you start something new, explain to your students what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Show them how the lesson is relevant to their lives, other than the fact that it’s part of the curriculum so they need to learn it. Look for news articles, pictures and videos that relate to your topic to use as a hook. Then, plan your lessons so the students aren’t just sitting there taking notes, doing questions and/or listening to you. If they need information on something, find a novel way to get them to find it, like research stations. If you want to know that they read and understood something, put them in groups and give them a task that will show their understanding. Keep tons of post-it notes, chart paper, markers and highlighters on hand so you can build in activities that get them thinking, learning and moving. (Click here for lots of active learning activities)
5. Use more formative assessment:
This is something that has transformed my teaching. I used to think they wouldn’t do assignments that wouldn’t be marked. I found out I was wrong. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Once that fear of a bad mark is removed, most students are happy to do work for feedback. It takes the mystery away: we tell them what they need to do to improve and they do it. You can read about my journey with formative assessment here and about a successful activity here.
What makes students excited about coming to a class? It can be that they know it will be easy and full of fun, light activities. However, students will also be excited to come to a class where they feel confident and successful about learning. We know that learning can be fun. The real challenge – and joy – of teaching is getting our students to believe that too.
If you’d like to check out my digital course on classroom management and student engagement click here. It’s got tons of ideas and strategies to help you manage and engage your students as they learn.