Does it ever feel like, no matter how well you plan and prepare for a class, the students just aren’t engaged? Like you’re faced with a sea of blank stares rather than active learners? This is a really common problem shared by teachers; especially since the post-pandemic return to the classroom. Thankfully, research in the fields of education, psychology, and child development has shown us some proven ways to get and keep students engaged throughout the school day. There are lots of different types of student engagement, and each of them speaks to different aspects of the learning process.
Here are nineteen of the top student engagement strategies to help you get kids involved in their learning!
1. Small Group Work and Discussions
When you break your class into smaller groups- especially for specific activities and guided discussions- students feel more responsible for their participation. They may also feel more comfortable sharing their complex ideas in a small group or one-on-one time. Make sure to give detailed lesson materials to each group to promote effective collaborative learning during these small-group students’ time.
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2. Hands-On Activities and Projects
Many students think that lecture time is actually just dead time. It can be hard for students to pay attention for more than ten or fifteen minutes (depending on their grade level). So, it’s important to bring in some physical learning activities so that students can stay engaged for the entire lesson.
Learn More: We Are Teachers
3. Technology Integration
Incorporating technology into your classroom can also lead to an increase in student achievement. Whether you’re using online discussion threads, interactive quizzes, or even a pre-recorded video, bringing that novel aspect of tech into the classroom is a great way to capture students’ interest and give them ways to stay active and engaged throughout the class.
Learn More: Drexel.edu
4. Offer Choice and Autonomy in Learning Tasks
One key aspect of great active learning activities is that they give students choices and autonomy. For example, you can offer different individual activities that kids can choose from, or you can offer different online learning options for homework. This way, students will have more positive attitudes towards these activities since they had a role in choosing and determining the assignment and/or goal.
Learn More: Ohio State
5. Play with Game-Based Learning
One of the best tools for engagement for students is bringing games into the mix! Games and other mildly competitive activities help bring a sense of importance and excitement to the topics that you’re teaching, and they can also help to solidify the knowledge and application of these topics.
Learn More: Study.com
6. Real-World Connections and Applications
If you want students to really invest in their critical thinking, then you need to show how your lessons are connected to the real world. Student learning is best when it’s transferable and applicable beyond just their academic achievements. This way, you can make your entire class relevant and interesting for your students.
Learn More: Real World Digital Promise
7. Collaborative Problem-Solving
You can promote creative thinking and active listening/communication skills in small groups. You should present groups of students with real-world problems to promote a familiar and authentic learning experience. This will help students learn to work together in order to solve the problem by applying the knowledge and topics you’ve already introduced in the class.
Learn More: Defined Learning
8. Authentic Assessments
If you want your students to really care about what you’re teaching, you have to show them that what you’re teaching is important outside the walls of the school. With authentic assessment, you’re proving that these skills are useful in the real world, and you’re also measuring mastery with real-life problems.
Learn More: Albany.edu
9. Let Students Take the Lead
Just because you’re the teacher doesn’t mean that you have to be the one leading the class at all times. When you let students teach or lead the class, their peers are much more likely to pay attention. The novelty sparks interest, and the “that could be me” feeling makes the concepts really stick for the other students in the class.
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10. Use Visual and Multimedia Resources
This is a key tip for ongoing engagement, especially for students who are visual learners. Remember, multimedia resources should be as interactive as possible; otherwise, the presentation of these materials might just get chalked up as “dead time” where students zone out without engaging.
Learn More: Research Gate
11. Inquiry-Based Learning Methods
These methods are all about asking questions. However, contrary to a more traditional model, it’s actually the students who are asking the questions! One sign of engaged students is their ability to ask (and eventually answer) relevant questions that dig deeper into the material.
Learn More: Splash Learn
12. Put Metacognitive Strategies to Good Use
Metacognitive strategies are those that help students reflect on their own thinking processes. These are key active learning strategies that help students cement their abstract ideas and apply their knowledge in new contexts. You can promote metacognitive and active learning strategies by asking guided questions, drawing on students’ prior knowledge, and offering guidance for reflection and planning ahead.
Learn More: Helpful Professor
13. Goal-Setting and Self-Reflection
When students are involved in setting goals for their academic achievement, they are much more likely to be engaged, according to the achievement goal theory. Encourage students to articulate their goals clearly, and then offer time and guidance for them to reflect on their progress. Self-reflection is an important method that allows them to honestly look at their own student achievement.
Learn More: Edutopia
14. Stay Positive with Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement means encouraging the right behavior, rather than drawing a lot of attention to the wrong behavior. This way, students know what you really expect of them, and they are more likely to stay engaged because they feel like they can actually achieve the expectations.
Learn More: Class Craft
15. Formative Assessment at Every Step
To really track student achievement throughout the course of your lesson, you can use formative assessment. Formative assessment involves pausing intermittently to ask thinking questions to the whole group. Based on the answers to questions, you’ll be able to judge what has been mastered and what needs some more work. This adaptive active learning technique will help keep students engaged because they’ll always feel “in line” with the material that you’re teaching.
Learn More: Edutopia
16. Provide Scaffolding
Scaffolding refers to support that you offer students as they move towards mastery. In the beginning, you’ll offer more support and scaffolding; then, as students become more proficient, you’ll remove some of those supports. This way, learning content is a smooth experience that feels more natural and flowing.
Learn More: GCU.edu
17. Make ‘Em Laugh with Humor and Real-Life Examples
From time to time, make sure that your students are laughing! When students laugh, they’re interested and engaged. They feel a sense of bonding and rapport with the teacher and classmates, which is a highly motivating factor for student engagement.
Learn More: Psychological Science
18. Offer Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction means that you have different “levels” of the same activities from time to time. That way, every student in your class can have a version of the material that speaks to their level. Kids who are ahead won’t feel bored, and kids who are struggling won’t feel left behind.
Learn More: Resilient Educator
19. Peer Teaching and Mentoring
If you really want to build an active learning environment, you should consider getting students involved in the teaching! When kids see their peers teaching and tutoring, they think “That could be me, too.” This motivates them to master the material to the point that they can discuss and engage their classmates at the same level.
Learn More: Cognitive Research Journal