Generating genuine student engagement is the most difficult part of the job for any teacher. It’s also an absolutely vital part of student success.
No matter how naturally interesting the subject matter, or how important mastering it is to your students’ future prospects, every teacher has battled against waves of glazed-over eyes, doodling and whispering while trying to get their message across.
You might already be utilising the ActivPanel interactive whiteboard to help engage with your students, but at times like this, it’s useful to have a box full of proven strategies designed to engage your students and get them talking about the subject, not what they’re planning on doing that evening.
In this article, we’ll explain 12 student engagement strategies designed to help you take your student’s learning to the next level.
1. Engage with your students’ interests
All of your students have a variety of interests, take advantage of these to help better engage them in your classroom.
Show your students how the topic will impact their day-to-day life and relate the subject to their interests to really drive home that your subject is something they should care about. Do you have a class full of wannabe video game streamers, for example? Give your students some example Twitch metrics and ask them to work out their projected number of followers or revenue growth to improve their maths or business skills.
Or maybe your class is struggling with Shakespeare? Something as simple as linking the story themes and structures to their favourite series could help to demonstrate just how relevant his writing skill is.
2. Fill “time between lessons”
There are always natural lulls between your lessons – moments where you’re setting up a presentation, handing out worksheets or otherwise engaged while students wait for the next lesson to start. It’s at times like this when students are most likely to get distracted, start chatting and completely lose focus on the lesson at hand.
Plan short, snappy activities during these moments to keep your students on track and thinking about the lesson, so you’ve got time to load up that troublesome video. Some simple, quick tasks include:
- Three questions. Students think of three questions they have about the lesson so far – you can plan to come back and discuss these as a follow up to the class.
- What do I know? Ask your students to identify what they already know about a topic – this one’s ideal for when you’re starting something new and serves to both keep students focused and give you an insight into any knowledge they may already have.
- Think, pair, share. Ask your students to discuss the lesson thus far with a partner then share any insights with the rest of the class.
Simple activities like these will help keep your students focused on the task at hand and provide you with great additional insights into their current thoughts.
3. Encourage collaboration
If you’ve got a chatty class, use that to your advantage and increase student collaboration to drive engagement in your classroom.
Provide your students with regular space to step away from the books and other solo activities to discuss what they’ve learned in small groups. As well as breaking the silence, this provides your students with the ideal chance to learn from their peers and further enhance their understanding of the topic.
Group projects and other collaborative learning activities will also help keep your chattier students engaged. Promethean’s ActivInspire lesson delivery software is designed to encourage students to work together with dual-user and multi-touch functionality for interactive displays.
4. Give your students a say
Learning is, and always will be, a two-way street. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge a teacher has to pass on, or how well they summarise the subject, if a student doesn’t want or feel they’re able to learn there’s not much you can do.
Help get your students more involved in the learning process by giving them a say in how it moves forward. Ask for their honest opinions on how they think they learn best and where they think things could be improved then build future lessons around this feedback.
Want to encourage complete honesty? Ask your students to provide feedback anonymously via a tool like Google Forms.
5. Make your lessons meaningful
Research has shown that if students don’t deem a learning experience as worth their time or effort, they’re much more likely to lose motivation or even disengage completely. The constant cry of “but when will I use this?” from bored students whenever a maths teacher moves into algebra and other advanced mathematical topics is a common example of this.
It’s not just maths teachers struggling with this, however. The majority of subjects encounter the same to a greater or lesser degree.
Instead of simply trying to push through your students’ resistance, or giving quick answers on the spot, take the time to establish a sound argument as to why each topic is meaningful and discuss this up front. The increased buy-in from students could have a significant impact on their overall performance in the subject.
6. Give your students freedom
A common attitude students have is a simple desire to ‘push back’ against what they perceive to be a lack of trust and freedom given to them by people in charge. When they feel someone else dictates their daily life, this is a natural reaction, and a simple way for students to express their disapproval is to refuse to pay attention in class and other areas where they don’t feel their voices are heard.
By focusing on the “why” of this negative attitude, rather than battling against it, you can dramatically improve outcomes.
Set the tone by allowing your students more freedom to have a say in their learning. If you have students who work better in a group or prefer to talk things through, give them the opportunity to do this. A small amount of freedom in how they approach a subject could go a long way for your students.
7. Be supportive
Without the right level of support, struggling students will often take the easier option of disengaging from a topic completely, thereby further harming their performance in class.
Being supportive of your students can come in a number of different forms, all of which can help boost students and enhance their engagement. Some simple acts of support include:
- Remember to give praise where praise is due. Has a naturally gifted student put in extra effort and further increased their grades? Let them know you’ve noticed and appreciate it. Or maybe a struggling student has started to take real steps to try and improve. If so, again offer them praise and remind them how well they’re doing.
- Personalise your approach by tweaking work slightly to better match your student’s capabilities. Something as simple as having an easier and more difficult worksheet aligned with different skill levels will give struggling students much more confidence than being expected to struggle through tasks they don’t fully understand.
- Create time to talk during lessons. You can create worksheets for students to work on during lessons and use this time to work with struggling learners on improving understanding while others move forward.
These, alongside a whole raft of other activities, will show students they have your support and help keep people of all levels motivated.
8. Break your lessons down
An hour-long lesson, just like anything else in life, is much more manageable when broken down into small chunks. Simply giving your class a shower of instructions at the start, before leaving students to work independently may intimidate them and will only lead to confusion and disengagement.
Instead, focus on breaking lessons down into smaller, more digestible chunks. As well as making this easier for students to manage, this process also gives you the opportunity to introduce regular breaks to help any students who are falling behind and remind everyone of your class objectives.
9. Ask better questions
Encouraging healthy discussion is a time-honoured way of engaging students and improving outcomes, but you need to ask the right questions to really get your class talking. Some guidelines for asking good questions include:
- Make them open-ended. Asking good, open-ended questions which need more than a simple yes/no answer is difficult, but planning a few out to nudge discussion is well worth your time.
- Ask legitimate questions. Don’t ask a question where you’re fishing for a specific answer and expect discussion to flow, students will simply look for the simple answer. Focus on questions where you’re genuinely interested in your student’s takes and give them the freedom to challenge opinions.
- Engage with their responses. Listen to how students respond and chip in accordingly to both show students you’re interested in what they have to say and guide the conversation.
Alongside this, try to pay attention to the group dynamic. In these situations, people will often follow the general consensus of the group and more dominant personalities can take centre stage. Pay close attention to how the discussion is moving to introduce new elements or bring quieter people into play.
10. Improve participation
While more extroverted, confident students taking the lead in discussions and volunteering answers is natural, it can sometimes lead to quieter students feeling disengaged during periods of discussion or unwilling to volunteer answers when the class as a whole is called upon. Avoid these issues by taking small steps to help improve participation from all students:
- One right answer. Limit confident student’s from dominating question and answer sessions by setting a limit of one right answer per lesson. While these students will still often lead the way, you’ll very quickly have less confident students volunteering as others have provided their correct answer of the day.
- Random name draws. Write each student’s name on a card, stick or other implement and randomly pull one each time you ask a question to help ensure a much wider range of students are pulled into the conversation. The spinner app on the ActivPanel is perfect for random name draws. Watch this video on how to use the Promethean spinner app on your ActivPanel.
- Whip-round. Ask a more open-ended question then go around the class asking every student for their answer to both encourage communication and get a much broader variety of responses. Students don’t all need to have different responses, simply ask if they can word their opinion differently to help further enhance everyone’s understanding.
11. Take Breaks
While the amount of work you need to get through can sometimes make the idea of taking a break impossible, making the time can do wonders for your students’ ability to learn.
Mind in Bloom has 20 simple but effective ideas to give your students a little brain break during your lesson, but even something as simple as giving your class five minutes to stand up and stretch it out can make a big difference to tired students.
12. Build strong relationships
A positive student/teacher relationship is another critical factor in driving student engagement. If your students like you as a person, they’re more likely to engage with the topic and want to work hard for you, this is especially the case for difficult students and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Some simple strategies will help you build positive relationships with your students and make the entire process of engaging your class much simpler:
- Care about your students’ emotional needs. A simple tweak to your lesson when a student is upset or taking the time to ask if someone not being themself is okay can make a huge impact.
- Treat your students fairly. Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t like to do and give proper explanations when they ask a question rather than dictating.
- Provide students with opportunities for increased one-on-one time which you can use to help build their understanding of a subject or simply talk about something which has been bothering them in their personal life.
- Keep your promises. If you promise a reward for the completion of a difficult task, be prepared to live up to your end of the bargain for the student who manages it. At the same time, don’t back out of punishments which have been agreed upon. Your students will know where they stand and appreciate you being a person of your word.
Further student engagement with Promethean
Promethean gives schools and teachers the tools they need to drive meaningful, sustained student engagement in both hybrid and in-person learning environments.
The Promethean Activpanel is designed to enable intuitive learning experiences with more opportunity for interactivity. Every panel comes preloaded with a suite of premium teaching tools and student engagement features, including infinite canvas, screen capture, screen share, spinner, timer and more. We also offer ClassFlow, the award-winning, free lesson delivery software that allows teachers the ability to bring presentations, documents, image files, videos, and more into a single dynamic lesson.
Ready to learn more? Schedule your free demo with a Promethean expert today!