Over the last 5 years as an educator, I have learned so much about student motivation and student engagement. Recently, I started
reflecting on my current practices and strategies I have used to engage
my students over the years. The program I am with has doubled in size
from roughly 140 students to over 280, so I feel confident these
strategies can, and will work.
1. Don't just care...really care!
It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds, but we have
got to remember that whatever is going on in our world, is 100 times
simpler and less complicated than that of our students. If a student is
having a bad day, or if a student is having a great day, give them the
opportunity to tell you about it. Be interested and actually listen to
their stories, because if you can show the students you care, they will
trust you, and when they trust you, magical things can happen in an
educational setting. Take an interest in their music, their hobbies,
their triumphs and struggles, and use that information to help them. IF
THE STUDENTS DON'T THINK YOU CARE, YOU WILL NEVER MAKE A MEANINGFUL
CONNECTION WITH THEM!!
2. Speak to every student at least once every class period - the more the better!
I have tried very hard to make sure this is common practice in my
classroom. Even if it is a simple "hello" and "how are you doing?" it
can mean a ton to the student. Additionally, making that early
connection in the class period allows that student to feel more
comfortable, which as we all know, students must be comfortable for
learning to take place. STUDENTS DON'T LEARN WHEN THEY ARE STRESSED AND
3. Meet your students where they are; not where they are supposed to be, or where you want them to be...
This strategy can be really difficult, but if you can master it, it can
pay huge dividends in the long run. Every year I start with new
students, with different ability levels, different learning styles, and
different attitudes toward education. We have got to meet each student
on their level. Their level means their ability, their learning style,
and their attitude toward education. If we treat each student the same,
then we CANNOT expect the same results! Just as a doctor evaluates all
of a patient's symptoms, and treats the patient according to his/her
symptoms...each patient is evaluated separately on an individual basis.
It is imperative that we practice the same strategies on our students.
FORGET ABOUT USING ONE STRATEGY TO TEACH ALL OF YOUR STUDENTS!!
4. Have high expectations, and expect the best from every single student every single day!
I can honestly say, this has probably been my biggest strength in terms
of increasing student engagement. I have found that when you push the
students and they know you are pushing them, they engage themselves and
respond at a much higher level than if you were giving them review work
over and over. Human nature is to enjoy a challenge and a task that
requires more than the minimum. If your students are disengaged and
non-attentive, perhaps they are bored, and they need a challenge to get
them going. Let your students know you have high expectations for
yourself, and consequently you expect the best from them too. NEVER
UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A CHALLENGE WHEN IT COMES TO STUDENT
5. Do whatever it takes to get your students out of their desks, and give them every opportunity to use their hands and legs!
Organized chaos would be how I would describe my classroom. Students
need to move, and sitting for 7 hours a day is frankly torture. Would
you want to sit for 7 hours a day and listen to people talk at you...no,
I think not. I try to get my students up and moving at least 2 to 3
times a week. I am talking about relay races, group work, activities
that require building things with their hands, an activity where unused
fly swatters are used, and lastly skits and reenactments that make
everybody laugh. THE HUMAN BODY WAS NOT DESIGNED TO SIT ALL DAY!!
6. Focus on the three R's - rigor, relationships, and relevance...
I already talked about rigor (4) and relationships (1), but I wanted to
keep all three R's together. If the students see no relevance and value
in education, then how can we expect them to learn? We have got to
make sure what they are doing in school is practical and relevant,
because if we don't then we have no shot at engaging them. In my
classroom I have shown them the connections to what we are learning and
the world in which they live. Also, I have used resources to make what
they are learning applicable in their current lives, and have shown them
ways to use what we have learned in class. IF THEY SEE NO VALUE, THEY
WILL NEVER BE TRULY ENGAGED!!
7. Most importantly...give your students a voice and involve them in the educational process!
Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult things to do in an
educational setting, and because it is one of the most difficult, it is
one of the most important. The students know how they learn, they know
what they like and dislike, and they hold the key to getting them
interested and engaged. Every day I see 140 students, and my goal is to
use them to help me do my job more effectively and efficiently.
Students are a free resource that most educators ignore. Include them
in making assignments, teaching lessons, designing rubrics and writing
quizzes and tests. What do you have to lose? They will provide you
with a wealth of knowledge, and most importantly, they will be engaged
because they are a part of the process. They now have a voice in how
they are educated, as well as how they are assessed...STUDENT
INVOLVEMENT = AWESOME!!
Please respond with any additional strategies you have used to engage
your students. I would love to add to my list and compile a much larger
list to use for new teachers, as well as teacher growth and development
programs. Thank you in advance for your help!