Join us as we take you through our top 10 tips for engaging students. When students drift off they’re losing valuable classroom time and we don’t need to tell you that if students are enjoying what they’re learning, its more likely to stick.
1. Take A Tailored Approach
Students start out at different levels of understanding and ability on subjects; as you get to know them you’ll be able to tailor the work and your approach accordingly. If a piece of work is meaningful to the student they’re more likely to find it rewarding and work on it to the best of their ability. For example, if the class is being assigned the task of writing a piece of poetry maybe you could allow them to write about a subject that’s important and interesting to them. We appreciate this may not always be possible, especially if you have a large class or your time is taken up by particularly challenging pupils.
2. Warm-Up the Class
Edutopia‘s Tristan de Frondeville recommends starting each class with a warm-up. One way of doing this is to plant mistakes in material you’ve written on the board. Ask them to split into small groups and workout together what the errors are. Once everyone has finished they indicate at the same time with their fingers how many mistakes they’ve found. Going through the groups one by one the students feel accomplished when you acknowledge their correct answers as well as hopefully energised for the remainder of the lesson!
3. Teach them Collaboration
Team work is of course both an essential life skill and a valuable teaching aid. When students aren’t familiar with working in teams group projects can escalate into unnecessary arguments or people being left out. For older children or young adults you could ask them to create a poster containing different ideas for a project. Younger children could master team skills by being asked to create something out of paper. Whilst half the class is doing the team work the other half can watch and give constructive criticism about the team work before switching.
4. Be Strict with Instructions
Be consistently clear to your students that you won’t repeat your instructions. Require that everyone is looking at you and facing forwards in silence before you begin talking. Give them plenty of warning that you’re going to give instructions at the start of the lesson allowing them to talk among themselves to let off steam, and get any conversation out of their system before the lesson begins.
5. Use Movement to Aid Focus
If you ask your students to follow some basic choreographed moves you will instantly see who is not focused and invigorate the group. The complexity and type of moves will vary depending on the age of your class. This technique takes students out of the conversations they may be having with their peers diverting their attention to you.
6. Encourage Everyone To Answer
A successful lesson will see as many people involved in giving answers as possible. You want the students to be on a level playing field when it comes to giving answers to the class. One way of ensuring this happens is to ask some questions which could have multiple answers. Ask the students to signal the quantity of answers they can provide by holding the relevant number of fingers up to their chest. This should eliminate the possibility of particular students boasting that they had more answers than is true. It also means that you can go through the class quick fire selecting a variety of students to answer.
7. Keep Students on Their Toes
Another way to keep everyone answering questions is to introduce a lucky dip answer system. For example, this could be a tub or jar containing each student’s name on a piece of paper. Ask a question which most students could confidently answer and pick people at random. Keeping the questions easy will mean that even those who struggle will feel accomplished about answering a question.
8. Ask Them to Process The Lesson
A great way of settling students after a group assignment is to ask them to process the lesson so far via a short written assessment. This will calm them down and set them up for any remaining parts of the class. You could ask them to suggest an exam style question for assessing what they’ve learnt or simply ask them to summarise the lesson. This encourages them to process what they’re thinking further than simply giving short answers and allows them to apply your teaching in a more structured way.
9. Encourage Good Team Work
Students can often be tempted to ask you a question in the first instance rather than discussing as a group. This takes up an unnecessary amount of your time and means that the group isn’t functioning properly. If you’re approached by a student always emphasise the importance of them talking to the whole team; in all likelihood one of their team members will know the answer.
10. Keep It Relevant
Keep your students’ attention throughout a dry presentation by including memes or relevant photos of celebrities they like. This will break up the monotony of observing presentations and stimulate thinking and conversation points. Applying what they’re learning to real life pop culture events or people will help them take it in. Younger students can be kept engaged by including teaching games in class like throwing a ball between students answering questions. You could even assign different corners or areas of the room as particular answers encouraging the class to stand in the area of the answer.