It’s hard to teach in a barely engaged classroom and it’s even harder to learn. Here are 5 tips on how to increase student engagement. You might already know these, but are you doing them?
1. Create Curiosity
It’s what killed the cat: curiosity is an essential driver for deeper understanding. It’s the same reason why Google and Wikipedia are so popular- curiosity creates a deep need for understanding therefore motivating us to seek out and understand the answer. By tapping into students’ natural curiosity, you can increase student engagement in the material being presented. Incorporating elements of mystery can incite curiosity within students.
- “Why do Earthquakes happen?” or “What killed all the dinosaurs?” – allow students to work in small groups to uncover the answers allowing them to explore their own curiosity and autonomy
- Present a broad topic like ‘Space’- Give students 5-10 minutes to ask any questions they’ve had regarding that topic and answer them or incorporate those topics into the lesson
2. Make it Fun
Have you ever gone to a professional development day consisting solely of sessions and speakers telling you what you ‘need’ to know or just watched CNN? During those 8 hours of presentations, power points, and speeches- how do you feel? Nobody likes to be talked at for 8 hours. Find ways to inject fun into the lessons. Students are more likely to remain engaged if they are having fun and have the opportunity to participate.
- Find ways for students to get up and get moving. Here’s some ideas!
- Use games to get students thinking about the material.
- Create the opportunity for students to explore the material in different creative ways with presentations, group breakouts, and projects.
3. Be Real
How do you choose topics that you want to learn about? Often times the topics that engage people are those that they are inherently interested in or will help to make their day easier. Knowing how to fix a carburetor may not be overly useful to many of us on a day to day basis, but understanding how to calculate a percentage maybe beneficial every day (from tips to sales). Finding methods to illustrate how concepts and lessons will be used in students’ everyday lives increases relevancy and therefore student engagement. Find ways to recreate real world scenarios and real world problems that can be solved by the current lessons.
- Create a cooking class where students will understand the difference between standard and metric measurements and the importance of accuracy.
- Give students sports or pop culture articles with grammatical errors to illustrate the importance of clarity.
Relate lesson topics to the challenges of adolescent life. It is important for students to relate to the subject material and develop empathy and understanding for how seemingly disparate concepts relate to their own struggles. Successful student engagement comes from creating content students can care about.
- The struggle between Parental rules (curfew, homework) and adolescent freedom can relate to the American Revolution
- The pressure to conform to society’s norms can be related to several novels such as The Scarlet letter. Here are some novels addressing Real adolescent problems
Find ways to acknowledge students for their achievements and successes. Positive reinforcement for hard work and success goes a very long way in increasing a student’s confidence. Students are more likely to be engaged in environments that they associate with positive feelings.
- Make it a priority to complement each student for something that they excelled in each week. Record these interactions and observe how students react.
- Provide tangible recognition for accomplishments and milestones reached throughout the school year- trophies, candy, badges, pizza parties etc.
Are these techniques that you incorporate in your lesson plans? Why or why not? In the comments, share other tips on how to engage students.