Get Your Students Engaged in the Classroom! | TeacherSherpa Blog

Get Your Students Engaged in the Classroom!

"Get Your Students Engaged in the Classroom!" - Getting and keeping kids engaged in learning is one of a teacher's biggest challenges.  No matter what the age group you are teaching, there are techniques you can easily…

Written by Danielle Rivera – TeacherSherpa Cofounder
Getting and keeping kids engaged in learning is one of a teacher’s biggest challenges. No matter what the age group you are teaching, there are techniques you can easily incorporate into your teaching strategies to keep your kids interested.  
We’d love for you to check out this Student Engagement Reflection Wheel as a tool to help you stay on track when embedding engagement strategies into your content lesson plans.  It’s also a great reflection tool to use after you’ve taught a lesson.  Keep in mind the intent is not to embed a strategy from each section of the wheel, more so than balancing your teacher talk time, during direct instruction, with student-centered activities that build discussions between students, get them up and moving, provide opportunities for group or partner work, and more.

5 Ways to Increase Student Engagement:

1 – Tug of War Topics – When introducing a topic, addressing an issue that has two strong opinions, or simply to find out what students are thinking in regards to how they are feeling about a certain issue, this strategy is a great one that gets your students up, discussing and defending their reasoning.  Here’s how it could play out:  1) Pose a guiding question or problem to your class (for younger grades, you could also use this when addressing surveys).  2) Next, pre-plan and identify at least two sides that would “tug” at each side of the coin/dilemma.  (Hence, the two teams in a tug of war). 3) The teams work collaboratively when thinking of “strengths” or reasons that strongly support their side of the topic, and discuss whole group. 4) As an extension or reflection, have partners within teams work on other “what if” scenarios to build on the discussions.
2 – Backwards Thinking – Give your students an answer, and have them generate a question that would match.  (ex: The answer is _________.  What is the question?)  You will be surprised at all the different angles your students take when simply working backwards.
This is also a great option instead of traditional homework. Ask your students to come in the next day with 1-5 questions based on their assignment. Odds are, they will all have roughly the same 10 questions. You should be able to think of them in advance. Embrace the surprise questions!  Poll the class on their questions and then sort them into groups to come up with some answers on their own – as you walk around and help each group out.
3 – Fairness Sticks –  We’ve all seen it…the teacher asks a question and often times the same student’s hands go up each time.  Those few students are eager to answer, and the rest of the class breathes a sigh of relief.  A simple and easy strategy is to use popsicle sticks (you can buy them at a craft store if you’re not a fan of popsicles) – write each student’s name on a stick and drop them in a cup. When you’re asking questions about a lesson, rather than call on hands raised, pull out a stick. Pull the stick with the name first, before you ask a question. This way, you can ask the lower half of your class questions that they can answer and that will boost their confidence. Then move into asking a question first, give wait time, and pull a student’s name stick out of the cup to keep all students engaged and listening.
4 – Mind Warm Up with Colored Dots – If you’re looking for a way to engage all students and help them to communicate content to their peers, you might try out this strategy.  What does it look like? 1) Prior to this strategy being used, place colored dots at each students desk/table area (red, blue, green yellow).  *These dots can be used for so much more, too (which will come in another blog).  You will decide on a colored dot student, for the day, to be the spokesperson at his/her table. (If students are reluctant, allow them to find an assistant to help them out).  2) You will also need to pre-write (using a dry erase marker) whatever your topic is that you want students to discuss. (ex: Character Traits, Inference, Fractions, Solar System, Friendships, etc). 3) Upon your signal, give students 1-2 minutes to jot down anything that comes to mind when they think about the topic you’ve written in the center of their table. They can write words, phrases or even quick sketches. (FYI – students love the idea of getting to write on their tables with dry erase markers. Set the expectations prior to beginning though). 4) After time is up, allow a little time for tables to discuss. 5) Then, have the “colored-dot student – the spokesperson”, stand up and rotate to the next table to share out what his/her original table discussed.  They will also be responsible for asking the new table for their ideas and explanations. (Allow them to take notes if needed).  6) After ample time at the first rotation, the spokesperson remembers to take at least one new idea with him/her (because eventually, they will have collections of new ideas to share with their original table when they have rotated through all the tables).  The rotation continues in this manner until the spokesperson returns to his/her original table.  7) Now, it’s time to share out all the new ideas to the spokesperson’s original table.  The peers have opportunities to ask questions, and add to their original ideas on their tables.  Because the students have taken a leadership role, are accountable for communicating ideas, and bringing back new information to their peers, it is not necessary for the teacher to do a whole class share out (because it would be redundant).  Do keep in mind, though, that the teachers job during the activity is to circulate around the room, listening in on discussions, facilitate as needed and clear up an misunderstandings when needed.

5 – Student “Teachers”  It’s been said that if you truly know something you can teach it to others. Put your students to the test – in groups or singly. Work through a lesson and when you feel the kids are ready, allow time for them to present and teach the lesson back to their peers, to you (and their parents if you’d like to invite them).  You’ll quickly know if they have learned the material and build an environment filled with collaborative learners.As a teacher, you are excited about what you’re doing and you want your kids to be excited as well. Bringing in new ways to teaching the “same old things” is one way to keep your enthusiasm alive. If you’re enthusiastic, your kids will be too.Give it a Try! 

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