We all know that engaging students in learning is a challenge.
Whether you call this engaging students, active learning or maximizing student participation, teachers just want students to engage with the learning activities presented.
We all know it is the students who don't engage are the very students who will cause us grief in the long run.
So engaging students, particularly those who frequently do not engage, in the learning will cause us less pain.
There are four essential elements that will often cause students to loose concentration and go off task.
After all how many times can you study nouns before interest starts to wane. Obviously, there will be a need to revisit content from time to time, but you often don't need to take the whole class on the journey.
Try these ways to bring students back to the fold.
1. Always determine prior knowledge. This could simply be a matter of asking the students what they know about the topic being studies. You could brainstorm in groups and have students prepare content maps. This is a great way to build readiness for learning. As well as finding what the students know, you also build a readiness to learn. In the brainstorming groups, students get a chance to peer tutor each other. Students feel a greater connection to the learning is they are ready to learn.
2. Build Group Work Activities. Group work is a powerful learning motivator - but an activity which generates a fair bit of noise. Teachers don't like noise, so group work is not done often. But you only need to look into the adult world to find that group work is a engaging activity for participants.
3. Peer Tutoring. I have spoken about peer tutoring many times before. Peer tutoring is not only great for engaging students, but it also builds mastery, and helps with behaviour management and task involvement. Extend peer tutoring to have students build activities for each other. Have students build crosswords for other students.
Students need to see themselves as effective learners before they will engage with the content. Ensure that students believe they have the skills to understand the content before expecting them to engage.
4. Build an anonymous question box where students can insert questions, issues, critical elements without fear of ridicule. Perhaps the students don't understand but do not want to be recognised by others as not understanding. .Use the anonymous entries as discussion starters for all.
5. Build Buddy Groups. This could be a long term or a short term option. It could also be a supportive network or peer tutoring network Make these groups flexible. Students will often confide in peers before you. And peer groups are often more supportive.
6. Construct Expert Groups. This is a great way of engaging students in ONE aspect of the content. It could be used to provide differentiation as well. Break the content into smaller bits and have small groups become EXPERTS in that aspect. Students can then present these to the whole group.
Don't let the Ferals Control You
If you are allowing Feral Students to control your classroom you are doing a GROSS disservice to yourself and the students who want to learn. Use these strategies to bring control back to your classroom. This resource could be your bible.
We all know that pace of learning is FAST. Everyone expects teachers to build mastery overnight. Rushing learning is bad for teachers but it is DISASTROUS for engaging students.
7. Break learning into "bite-sizes". We know how to eat an elephant. Start with small chunks and keep on chewing. Students lose interest very fast. As a rule of thumb, students stay focused for the same number of minutes as their age. Even teenagers will start to lose focus after 13-15 minutes. Regroup activities into smaller more manageable components.
8. Maintain Connection. Try to vary connection with the learning by varying the activity. Don't give the students all the information. Keep engaging students with different learning tasks. Dead space is a recipe for misbehaviour. Have a clozure activity ready to go as soon as you recognise restlessness.
9. Give students the outcomes first. Let students know what you hope to achieve. If they don't know where they are going, they are less likely to participate in the voyage.
We all know that the teacher has to teach. That is only successful if the student learns. it might be a shock, but school is for students - not teachers.
10. Make students more active than you. Look constructively at your lesson and visualise for whom the activity is more important. Some teachers do all the work. Talking from the front is great for the tutorial, but if the students aren't focused, they aren't learning.
11. Learned Helplessness. Don't to be too quick to offer help. Challenge the students to problem solve themselves. Encourage them to look at the mistakes with new eyes. Engaging students is all about helping them look for answers, not giving them answers.
12. Use Powerful Questions. Good questioning techniques really make a difference to a lesson's success. Use questions that require much more thinking than simple YES/NO.
What are some strategies you use to engage students?