We all know that student apathy is at an all-time high. However, that doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and say it’s pointless. In fact I’ve got one simple student engagement strategy that just might make a difference in your classroom.
This strategy requires no prep, no photocopying, and no detailed lesson plan. And, it can take as little as two minutes to implement.
What is this engagement strategy? A simple break in your instruction that allows students to actively engage. It can take several forms – and none of them are new or earth shattering. They just work.
The “just-take-a-two-minute-break” and chat
There are two reasons why these engagement strategies can make a big difference for student engagement:
Students’ attention spans are short
Let’s just acknowledge this. Our clientele (even us too) have brains that work differently than they used to. For the most part, we don’t focus as we once did because technology has taught us to digest information in smaller bites.
Yes, students can pay attention to some things for long periods of time, but English class is not at the top of the list, is it? So, if we do chalk-and-talk for long periods of time – even if it’s the most amazing lesson – students will disengage. You know, you’ve seen students get a glazed look in their eyes, and you’ve had one yourself at staff meetings and PD sessions.
So, something as simple as asking students to take a minute to brainstorm an answer to a question or to share a thought with a neighbor can keep students engaged as you finish your lesson.
These strategies require each student to engage
The other reason I love these strategies is that all of them (except the let’s-just-take-a-break option) require each student to engage. When you ask the whole class a question, you’ll get maybe three to five students’s hands up. The rest might be thinking of something else, even if they have their eyes on you.
However, if you ask each student to reflect or share with a partner, each one needs to do something. Yes, some will do it better than others, but if you build in the habit of pausing for an engagement break in your instruction, your students will know that they can’t just zone out during your lessons. They will know that you expect them to think and do.
And, most importantly, they will come to appreciate the chance to become more actively engaged.
But…what if you do these things and your students just won’t talk? Read this post for strategies.
Don’t be afraid to just give them a break
I am a big proponent of teaching bell-to-bell. But that does NOT mean that I’m talking or requiring students to be totally on task for the whole time. It mean that we start one time and that class goes until the end of the period, not when students decide to pack up.
In between bells, I have a plan and most of that plan has students actively listening or working on their own or with others.
And often, I give them a two minute break halfway through. No strings attached. They can chat, check their phones, go get a drink. We do it at the same time and they only get one if they’ve been working. Read more about that here.
So that’s my simple student engagement strategy. As I said, it takes very little prep but it can make all the difference for keeping your students engaged.
Let me know if you have any questions.