Student engagement has been a topic of discussion for decades. As a former teacher, I hate to admit that even when I was in school I wasn’t engaged nearly as much as I should’ve been. As a student, I felt that my engagement wasn’t important to my grades, and instead, test scores were what mattered.
When I taught, I wanted to make sure my students didn’t feel that way. I wanted them to do well in school but also engage them in experiences they would never forget. Over my career, I noticed a lot of things I was able to do to fulfill this goal and some other things that didn’t work so well. So I will try to make it easier for you than it was for me, and provide you with three student engagement strategies that can set you up for success in your classroom.
Draw the students in!
Students love being drawn in. Hopefully, you have a memory or two of an activity in class from when you were a student. A great example of this comes from what a social studies teacher did in her room. She was able to grab the attention of her students right away with a breakup letter. It blew me away that students were on the edge of their seats. That is something they will talk about for years to come.
While teaching STEM I knew I had to get creative. Whether it’s putting trash all over the room to talk about recycling and earth science or creating songs and dances (the kids love this…not) to get the students engaged. When it comes to engaging students at the beginning of a lesson, there is no right or wrong answer. Instead, think of something your students would love to see when they walk into the room.
We Learn Best by Playing
I never understood the notion of the traditional model of teaching. Most jobs train you by doing, not by watching a lecture. That’s not to say you shouldn’t lecture students at all. I just think we spend way too much time having kids listen rather than trying something new. When a student is trying to figure out something like a micro: bit, they get so excited when they have that moment of success. They want to do more and learn more. So when it comes down to it, be a facilitator. Have your students try something, then come back together to see what they learned and build on that.
Conversations are KEY!
I can tell you the best learning has taken place by students talking. I know that student in the back who talks too much (yes, that was me) gets on your nerves. Believe it or not, talking is the best form of understanding. Talking things out and figuring out which information learned is true, versus which information is skewed, is vitally important for education. Without the conversation, kids can’t understand concepts that relate to big picture items like robots, 3D printing, or even laser cutting. The conversation is what makes the conversion from knowledge to understanding.
When it comes to engagement strategies we need to think outside the box. We live in a world with endless technology and ideas from the world around us. Our greatest strength in student engagement lies in us working together and trying those different things. Do you have a cool way you engage students? Let us know on our social media how YOU engage students!
– Spencer Sharp