15 Tips to Increase Student Engagement in Fun and Memorable Ways

15 Ways to Increase Student Engagement in Fun and Memorable Ways

Student engagement is a foundation of the learning process, however, it is increasingly hard to capture our students’ attention in a meaningful way. It is not enough to have them in class. We have to get them to put down their phones, tune in to what we have to say, and engage in the material. Here are a few ways to aid in getting your students to pay attention to what you’re presenting – and remember it!

1. Make it personal.

Whenever possible, let them in on what personal connection you have with the material. Tell a story about the math test you bombed because you forgot to study the equation. Reflect on what a novel has meant to you beyond the classroom. Tell them about your cousin who works at NASA and needed this particular science lesson from middle school. Whatever the connection, it will make the work seem important (because it is!) and students will want to hear what is next.

2. Use old school student engagement techniques: rhymes and songs.

It’s a trick as old as time – because it works. Set your material to music and your kids will be instantly engaged. The 2020 version? TikTok!

3. Make learning hands-on.

Even when it’s not readily obvious, look for ways to give students a tactile experience. When they see physical representations of the work, it helps it become real – and they want to learn more. Have them act out the novel scene, do math with skittles, or perform the actual science experiment. 

4. Play games.

We all know Kahoot! is a classroom favorite but don’t be afraid to go old school, too. Have them play rock-paper-scissors, but use keywords from the text. Use four corners to decide how familiar they are with the material. The possibilities are endless with a quick Google search for learning games.

5. Encourage collaboration.

If you’re constantly lecturing, it can begin to sound a bit like a Peanuts cartoon with the teacher droning on in the background. Let the students take the reigns and collaborate to find and share new information on the topic at hand. 

6. Use annotation/talk to the text techniques.

This can be done across disciplines and goes beyond just writing in the margins of a book. Have students write out math equations on posters and annotate each step. For science, have them annotate experiments to define academic words. 

7. Break into small groups.

Build in stations or rotations so that students work independently for a portion of the lesson but then come to you for a portion, too. This allows you to speak to a few students at a time and address their individual concerns and learning styles. 

8. Engage group responses.

Use signals, whiteboards, or even flashcards to gain group responses from your students. This helps you quickly assess student engagement and change course if needed – while giving them a hands-on task. 

9. Make it current.

Do your best to link your classroom curriculum to current events. More than ever, our students are constantly connected to what is happening around them. Use that to your advantage to help them engage with the lesson and retain the material. 

10. Be mindful of YOUR attitude.

When the teacher cares, the student cares. Maybe this is your fifth class of the day or fifteenth year in the classroom – sometimes the material can start to feel stale, which makes student engagement tricky. Challenge yourself to remember what drew you to teach your subject and channel that renewed excitement in a way your students feel!

11. Hook ‘em!

A hook or “activating strategy” is a key component of student engagement. Start your lesson with something that captures the class’ attention. It can be a video clip, a political cartoon, or a poem. Anything to quickly let them in on the day’s topic and give them a reason to care. 

12. Increase their vocabulary arsenal.

Teach them the words they need to know to understand what you’re teaching. The quickest way to “lose” someone is to talk over their ability to understand you. Front-load the academic vocabulary related to the lesson so when those words appear in text or lecture, students understand what you mean. 

13. Keep it challenging.

Be mindful and keep the material rigorous. Boredom leads to acting out and disengaging in the lesson. Students should feel challenged but not overwhelmed. This can sometimes mean adjusting your lesson on a moment’s notice as you realize they totally know what you’re telling them and are ready for the next thing! Travel that Bloom’s Taxonomy diagram!

Via: The Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

14. Take note-taking up a notch 

Give students a way to actively engage in your lesson. It can be a graphic organizer or guided notes. Anything that helps them put pencil to paper while you’re talking so they are engaging with what you’re saying. 

15. Get a change of scenery.

If you can, leave your room! Take students outside to read a new text or to the library to work in groups on their math project. The change of scenery alerts the brain that something important and different is happening. Sometimes that’s just what you need to get them listening and remembering!

Research shows promoting student engagement leads to increased focus, attention, motivation, and critical thinking skills. It also creates more meaningful learning experiences. Engaged students do better on standardized tests, are less likely to drop out of school, and are less likely to be disruptive in class. It’s a win for everyone!

Also Check Out:

15 Tips to Increase Student Engagement in Fun and Memorable Ways

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I am a Southern gal, mama to two kids (8 years and 6 months) and I have been teaching middle school for over 7 years. I love to go hiking or read a book in my free time. My favorite part of teaching is connecting with kids over things beyond just academics--teenagers are awesome!

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