Teachers who use strategies for increased student engagement in the classroom will find that not only do their children learn more, but that the overall school experience is better for students, teachers, and parents. Engaged students are actively involved in lessons and activities. Their increased involvement results in a much deeper understanding and far more enjoyment throughout the process. This blog post will share 10 ways to increase student engagement.
Research has shown that when students are enthusiastic about what they are doing and feel an ownership over their education, they are much happier and enthusiastic. Happy children, who are focused and on-task, make it much easier for you to do your job as their teacher. They communicate positive feelings about school to their parents. This helps develop a strong relationship between home and school. When colleagues and administrators walk into your classroom and see the students attentive to their tasks, it reflects well on you as a professional.
But, how do you make that magic happen?
Implementing any one of the tried and true strategies for increasing student engagement below will help quite a bit. Try combining several of these ideas and you will start to see magic happen in your classroom!
This blog post will…
- suggest 10 strategies for increasing student engagement in the classroom
- empower kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers to maximize student learning and fully engage their students
- suggest resources to save you tons of planning and prep time
Procedures and Routines
- Clear expectations and consistency in your daily routines set the stage to engage. When you take the time to practice procedures, the students will know their roles and take comfort in the familiarity of events. This allows them to focus more energy on the tasks at hand.
- Frequent Discussion Opportunities – Many children struggle to be active listeners. Asking children to be attentive when not participating makes it easy for them to lose interest. An easy way to keep them involved is to assign each student a “talking partner.” During read alouds and lessons, ask questions or have them chat together about a point you are making.
- Talking Partners – Another effective option is to not only assign a partner, but also designate each student as either #1 or #2 in the partnership. Pause frequently during lessons or after giving directions for an assignment to say, “Ones explain to the twos what the instructions are” or “Twos tell the ones, in your own words, what I just said.”
- Avoid Lectures – While the discussion tips above do work wonders when you are delivering direct instruction, student engagement will increase greatly if you limit lectures and instead have them touching and doing more often. Always challenge yourself by asking, “How could I teach this concept in a discovery-based manner?”
- Use Manipulatives – The use of hands-on materials not only helps children to better understand what they are learning, it also gives them something to do physically.
Small Group Instruction
- Close Proximity to the Teacher– I’ve never seen a child look disinterested when working in a small group situation. Being within close range of the teacher makes each lesson feel personal and results in greater participation.
- Individual Attention – Small group learning situations allow for personal attention. The activities tend to be more customized and designed for the individual students.
- Differentiate Instruction– Small group instruction centers around differentiated instruction. When instruction is differentiated to meet individual needs, students tend to be more engaged in learning.
- Gallery Walks– A gallery walk is an instructional method that gets kids moving and discussing topics at the same time. The teacher presents several questions and stages them in different areas of the classroom. The questions can be placed on chart paper tacked to the wall, on dry erase boards around the room, on paper at different tables, or by using technology such as computers or tablets. Groups of students move through the classroom, much like you would a gallery or museum. They look at the thoughts and ideas that were left by the previous group, discuss them, and then add their own.
- A Workshop Model – I personally have found that using a workshop model that combines independent student assignments, hands-on learning opportunities or games, small-group teacher instruction, and reinforcement of concepts through reading or technology, is the key to consistent student engagement. It works well for several reasons. All of the activities are delivered in shorter segments of time. Students have opportunities to move regularly. Instruction and activities are differentiated to align with individual ability levels. The workshop model balances independent work, discussion-based/group activities, and teacher-directed activities, which makes it structured and predictable, yet also varied to keep interest levels high. Learn how I use math workshop in my classroom here!
- Teacher-Created Games – Using games in the classroom is a time-proven way to turn tedious tasks like learning math facts or reviewing for assessments into something exciting. The added element of competition, mixed with the excitement of thinking they are playing instead of learning, is motivating to students.
- Student-Created Games – Let your students design their own games to showcase their knowledge and skills. Provide guidelines about the content and encourage them to display their understanding of a concept in a creative way. This is a strategy I have used with great success for years and it continues to be one of the best tools for not only engaging students, but also assessing them in a much more creative way than a paper and pencil test. Have the game creators share their products with the class and allow time for them to play together.
Presenting your students with options within the classroom holds so much power. When they have an active say in what they are learning, and how they are learning, student engagement deepens. Here are just a few simple ways to add more student choice into each day.
- Let them pick their own books instead of assigning them.
- Use flexible seating options.
- Allow them to pick their own partner (when appropriate).
- Instead of assigning the same project to the class, present them with a menu of project choices.
- If there are ten math problems on a page, tell them to pick the 8 they want to answer.
All Participation Responses
- Don’t Ask Only One Student– When you pose a question to the class, chances are the same five kids will always raise their hands to answer. If you use methods (such as drawing names written on craft sticks) to call on students equally, you run the risk of getting a very lengthy, drawn-out answer or you may need to spend more time than you planned on to coach the answer out of a child. Instead, ask questions and have the students all respond by discussing it with their “talking partner.”
- Use Dry Erase Boards– Ask students to record their answers on a board and hold it up to show you. This works best for math problems or responses that you pose as multiple choice.
- Ask for Hand Signal Responses – Say things like, “Give me a thumbs up if you agree or a thumbs down if you disagree.” This keeps kids on their toes because everyone is expected to participate. You could also say, “Hold up one finger if you think the answer is true or two fingers if it is false.” I’ve also had students use sign language for multiple choice questions (they love learning sign language!).
A proactive behavior management strategy that has always worked well for me is to reward the class for teamwork and collaboration. I personally like to avoid group behavior plans that have consequences because it results in students showing resentment towards classmates if a consequence is issued. The benefit of teamwork rewards is that students encourage and remind each other to refocus and meet the classroom expectations. Below are two of my tried and true strategies.
- Teamwork Bingo– As a reward for working together, such as getting a compliment from another staff member or all participating in a lesson, a number is drawn. That number is colored in on a 10 x 10 grid. When the students get a number of squares in a row they earn a predetermined “prize.”
- Paper Chain– The paper chain works the same way as Teamwork Bingo, but instead of earning a number on a grid, they earn a link to a chain (paper strips stapled together). When the chain touches the floor they earn the prize.
Strive for an Organized and Well-Managed Classroom
- Increased Time on Task– So much time is wasted looking for misplaced plans, books, and lesson materials. Any bit of down time can take a child off task. Having what you need at your fingertips eliminates unnecessary opportunities for lost focus and interest.
- Makes the Day More Peaceful– Disorganization causes chaos. Not having what you need at your fingertips causes an unsettled feeling. Having to remind kids where to find or put things is exhausting. Not knowing where something is or having a messy space when a parent, administrator, or colleague is present is stressful. Being organized puts you and the students at peace which makes for a more enjoyable and productive day. This in turn results in higher student engagement.
- Enables the Teacher to be Present– When the classroom is organized, and you know where everything is, you are able to constantly be “in the moment” instead of planning out your next step or thinking about where to find something.