Experienced teachers know that in order for students to learn, they must be engaged. Engagement can be defined as a cognitive and emotional investment in the process of learning. There are many ways to enhance student engagement.
Students may become more invested in a task if there is technology involved. Some easy and meaningful tech-enhancements might include: videos on a topic (like those found on brainpop or khanacademy), online game that allow students to practice content-specific skills (i.e. xtramath), online polling to get a discussion going (i.e. kahoot) or online assessment platforms (i.e. quizlet)
Use small-group instruction to get students talking to one another, and taking a sense of collective ownership for their learning. Have tasks or discussions well-defined to ensure students are on-track and connecting to the learning material. Assign roles, such as time-keeper, moderator, recorder, illustrator, or otherwise depending on the task. Allow opportunities for small groups to come back to the entire class and share highlights from their group work, which increases accountability and helps ensure on-task engagement.
Almost everything can be taught or reviewed using a game. Set some ground rules that highlight collective achievement and try to incorporate a game or points system. Jeopardy and hangman are applicable almost every subject/content area. Other games might incorporate kinetic elements that get the students moving, too.
Keep explicit instruction highly-focused and brief, around 8-15 minutes; for older grades this may be increased. But the point is to try to mix up the direct instruction with opportunities for students to digest the information. Giving students an opportunity to reflect and analyze the material is as important (if not more) than just ‘getting through’ the curriculum.
Material must have multiple points of entry and be accessible to all students. A student that cannot access material will certainly struggle to engage. Remember that you are teaching for your earliest learner and your most advanced learner in the same lesson. Differentiating may require teachers to pre-assess students’ prior knowledge and for the teacher to provide students with choices on how to show their understanding of concepts.
For more info, check out:
Bender, William. (2017). 20 Strategies for Increasing Student Engagement. West Palm Beach, FLI: Learning Sciences International
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