Want to know the secrets behind an engaged classroom?
It’s simple, really. At the heart of all student engagement, especially at the middle and high school levels, is the idea of connection to the content. Learners want to feel heard, and they want to know where they fit in the world. If we as teachers can help them to feel connected then we can make our jobs much easier.
Here are some practical tips to try:
1. Engage first, then connect to content
Many teachers get very excited about a topic or a specific unit, only to introduce it on the first day and have it flop. As teachers, we need to remember that our learners are not always into the same things that we are. So if you want to engage your learners , the first thing you must do is know them well enough and their abilities and meet them there. (easier said than done , right)
They are probably thinking of snapchat and Instagram while we are still asking them to write an essay. The key to a successful unit or lesson is to engage the students first – meet them where they want to be- ask them to create a meme ( a funny one liner to describe a picture) and there you go- create some suspense or get them to take a quiz/ poll and then make the connection to content later on.
It’s better to start easy and move to more challenging than to start with super challenging and move to easy. (good tip especially for new teachers) The key is to deliver to meet their need at first .
2. Give your learners a voice and a choice
Teachers need to remember that the most important resource in their classroom is the learner themselves. In many classrooms, we still see that the learners are passive and not engaged . Unfortunately, a one way traffic on screen can get too boring and can also make the learners yawn away into their dreamland. To make your classroom more engaging, be sure to give students ample opportunities to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions on whatever topic you’re learning about. Try break our rooms for discussing ideas or try setting up your class 5-10 minutes earlier to have a discussion on something you are going to present.
The other piece to this is choice. Depending on the class, students could choose topics to study, for example ,for subjects lies art, history, language, they could choose a topic they would like to begin with. Bringing in elements of choice will increase their ownership over the content, and thus make the learners feel more engaged.
3. Provide authentic, specific, and frequent feedback
As a teacher, when you provide feedback, you’re either redirecting a learner who has lost their way or propelling a learner who’s on the right track. When making corrections, it’s important to do so early on in the learning process so that your learners are able to fix any mistakes without having to completely scrap whatever they’ve “understood” so far.
Learners love to know that they’re making progress or are doing a good job. However, your learners can also smell a fake compliment from a mile away. Simply saying “Good job,” ”Nice work,” or “Give it another shot” isn’t helpful and can lead to you losing student engagement. Instead, try to be specific — what did the student do well?
4. Start Class with a Mind Warm-Up and include energizers in between
Owing to the engagement of our learners online, educators now need to get creative and think out of the box to engage learners. The best way to begin a class could be to start with a warm up which could be asking them to share about what they like to eat since they are at home, what do they miss the most, keep questions ready to get the attention of your learners back. After 20 minutes of instruction give your learners a break by playing a 2 minute game or asking them to solve a puzzle or just asking them to find out how many vowels are there in a particular word flashed on the screen, or how many words can you make from a given word flashed on the screen. You can definitely be more creative than my examples
Let me know once you get to try this and do add some of your tips in the comment as well.:)
Author- Rakhee Chhabria
Early years and Special Educator