How to Engage Students Without Relying Solely on Technology

engaging students in the classroom without wholly relying on technology

Published: February 21st, 2023

Technology has become an integral part of education in today’s digital age. It definitely has incredible benefits to offer in classrooms, but an overreliance on technology can lead to disengaged students and a lack of critical thinking skills. Furthermore, relying too heavily on technology can land you in trouble, if your school WiFi goes down, for example. 

Sometimes, as teachers, we need to take things back to basics and engage with students on a more personal level – no distractions, no screens and no gadgets.

In this article, we will explore various strategies to engage your students in class without relying on technology. By incorporating these techniques, teachers can create a dynamic and interactive learning environment that promotes student engagement and critical thinking.

Finding the right balance with technology in the classroom

First things first – why might we need to explore ways to engage students without technology at all? Surely there are so many great ways to engage your class using technology, that you don’t need to think about the old-fashioned teaching techniques?

Well, there’s a balance to be found.

Technology has an invaluable role to play in the classroom, by keeping students up-to-date with our ever-evolving world and keeping learning fresh and relevant. Going back to classrooms without tech isn’t something anyone wants to see. But as teachers, we also don’t want to become reliant on technology as our sole method of keeping students engaged, and it’s tempting to simply pop on a YouTube video when you’re stuck for ideas.

So read on for twelve simple methods for keeping your class engaged without technology – for when you feel like they’ve maxed out on screen time, or you simply want to take things back to basics for a bit.

12 student engagement strategies for a captivating classroom

1. Make classroom time meaningful

Students respond more during lessons when they find the work personally meaningful. There are a few ways you can do this:

Use active learning techniques

Active learning techniques help students take an active role in their own learning. You can do this in the following ways:

  • Collaborative learning: Get groups of students to work together to solve a problem or complete a project. This promotes teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills.
  • Hands-on activities: Have students engage in a hands-on learning activity. This could include experiments, demonstrations and lab exercises. These activities provide students with opportunities to apply what they have learnt in class.
  • Role-playing: Get students to act out scenarios. For example, get them to act out a courtroom trial that allows them to apply what they have learned in class and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Create a positive classroom culture

Creating a positive classroom culture can help to foster a sense of community and behavioural engagement among students.

The first thing you can do to establish a positive classroom culture is set out clear expectations and rules. Clearly communicate expectations for behaviour and consistently enforce them. This is also very important for classroom management, as it will help students to understand what is expected of them and create a sense of safety in the classroom.

Lastly, be sure to create a welcoming environment. Make sure your classroom is visually pleasing and comfortable. Hang student work up on the walls, use positive and motivational quotes, and decorate the room with colours and patterns that inspire creativity. This will help instil positive feelings from the moment they enter the classroom, and therefore create an optimal environment for student engagement.

2. Turn dead time into learning time

Dead time is the time that students spend waiting for others to finish an activity or for the next activity to begin. Instead of allowing students to stare into space or play on their tabletsphones, use this time to engage them in an activity that requires minimal preparation or materials.

For example, you could have students work on a wordsearch or a crossword puzzle related to the topic they’re studying. This will keep their minds active and help them retain information. You could also encourage them to journal when they’re done with their work. This is an effective way to self-reflect on learnings and help them sink in.

3. Classroom games and friendly camaraderie

If you’re trying to reduce screen time in the classroom, classroom games are a great way to make learning fun and interactive. They can be used to review material, practise new skills or introduce new topics. This is also a way to encourage friendly competition that motivates student learning.

Dividing the class into teams and having them compete against each other creates a sense of camaraderie. This is what makes learning more enjoyable. An example is having students compete in a Jeopardy-style review game. Here’s how it could work:

  1. Divide the class into teams of 3-4 students each.
  2. Create a Jeopardy-style game board with categories and questions related to the material being covered in class.
  3. Each team takes turns choosing a category and answering a question. If the team answers correctly, they earn points. If they answer incorrectly, they lose points.
  4. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

4. Question-and-answer sessions

Question-and-answer sessions encourage interactivity in the classroom through good old-fashioned conversation. These sessions can take many forms, and teachers can choose the method that works best for their students and the subject matter being covered.

Here are a few ways to practice question-and-answer sessions:

  • Cold calling: This method involves calling on students randomly to answer a question, regardless of whether they have their hands raised or not. This is a good way to get quieter students to speak up and share their thoughts. It also helps you gauge whether students have been paying attention.
  • Think-pair-share: This involves giving students a question or problem to think about individually and then having them discuss their thoughts with a partner. After they have discussed it, they share their answers with the whole class. This can be a good way to get all students talking and can provide a variety of perspectives on a topic.
  • Quiz-quiz-trade: This method involves giving students a set of flashcards with questions on one side and answers on the other. Students work with a partner to quiz each other and then trade cards with another pair. This can be a fun and interactive way for students to review material.

5. Create meaningful prework

Prework is work that students do before class to prepare for the lesson. It helps students come to class ready to participate.

Students who have the necessary background knowledge before class are less like to feel confused and lost during the lesson. Less confusion and frustration leave students with more mental space to be engaged.

Prework also helps activate prior knowledge and connect it to new material. This means students are more likely to grasp concepts easily and stay focused during lessons.

6. Engage with your students’ interests

Engaging with students’ interests in the classroom is an important strategy for increasing student involvement in lessons, and particularly re-engaging disengaged students. Below are two examples of how to do this:

One way to engage with students’ interests is to incorporate them into the curriculum. For example, if a student is interested in sports, the teacher can incorporate sports-related examples or case studies in a maths or science lesson. This can help to make the material more relatable and engaging for the student.

Another way to engage with students’ interests is to allow them to choose their own topics for research projects. Or, if this is not an option, let them choose how they will demonstrate their understanding of the material. This makes things more exciting for students. Giving them autonomy leads to more engagement and effort, and makes them feel respected and grown up.

7. Use group work and collaboration

One of the pitfalls of using too much technology in the classroom is that it can make students feel isolated – with everyone sat individually at computers, there isn’t always room for collaboration.

Working in groups and introducing team-building activities in the classroom is a great way to engage students and promote collaboration. It also allows students to learn from one another and develop social skills.

This keeps students engaged through teamwork, active learning and critical thinking. Sharing their findings will also instil a sense of accomplishment, which can increase engagement and motivation for future tasks and group work.

8. Encourage students to present and share work regularly

Encouraging students to present and share their work regularly can help to increase student engagement in several ways.

One of the most important ways is that it increases accountability. When students know that their work will be shared with their peers, they are more likely to take ownership of their learning and put in more effort to produce quality work.

Sharing work with the class also allows opportunities for feedback. When students receive feedback from their peers and teacher, it helps them understand the material and improve their ability to apply it. This feedback can also help students to identify areas where they need to improve. This can lead to more self-directed and self-motivated learning.

Lastly, encouraging students to present and share their work regularly can help to enhance social learning. Students can learn from one another and see different perspectives on the same material when they present their work. Not only does this help with engagement, but it also helps foster a sense of community in the classroom.

9. Scaffold tasks with checkpoints

Scaffolding tasks with checkpoints in the classroom is an effective technique for engaging students. It also helps to break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.

Students feel more confident and motivated when they have a clear and structured approach to a task. This can be especially beneficial for students who struggle with organization and planning. By breaking down the task into smaller steps, students can focus on one thing at a time, which can reduce anxiety and learning fatigue, and therefore boost engagement.

Scaffolding tasks with checkpoints also help students have more control over their learning process. By providing students with clear steps and progress markers, they can monitor their own progress and take responsibility for their own learning.

10. Promote self-assessment and self-paced learning

Self-assessment and self-paced learning are two strategies that can help with student engagement.

Self-assessment is the process of having students evaluate their own learning. This can be done through the use of checklists, rubrics or other assessment tools. Doing this helps students take ownership of their education and reflect on their progress, leading to higher engagement.

Self-paced learning, on the other hand, is a method of instruction that allows students to move through the material at their own pace. All students have different learning styles and abilities that cause them to work faster or slower than others.

Letting students work at their own pace can help a lot with reducing frustration and increasing motivation. This will also give them the chance to work in a way that works best for them, which is likely to result in higher student engagement.

11. Start lessons with introductory hooks

An introductory hook is a way to grab the attention of students and get them engaged in the lesson from the start – think of it like the good old-fashioned art of storytelling.

How to engage your students with introductory hooks:

  • Use a personal story: Share an appropriate personal story or anecdote that relates to the topic. This can help to make the material more relatable and interesting to students.
  • Use a question or a quote: Start the lesson by posing a thought-provoking question or using a quote that relates to the topic. This can help to spark curiosity and interest in the material.
  • Use a hands-on activity: Start the lesson with a hands-on activity that relates to the topic. This can be a great way to get students actively engaged in the material from the start. Using a hands-on activity like this, instead of a tech-based lesson opener – helps children to feel like they’ve “woken up” every part of their brain.

12. Allow for “think” time

Thinking time is time built into the lesson for students to process and reflect on what they’ve learned. For example, after a presentation or discussion, you could give students a few minutes to write down their thoughts or talk with a partner.

This helps students with cognitive engagement. They can process the information and make connections to what they already know.

Technology-based engagement

By now, you should know all about the tips and tricks to keep students engaged without always feeling like you are relying on technology. These methods have multiple benefits – from protecting your lesson plans from technical issues, to reducing your class’s screen time and encouraging collaboration.

While there are many benefits to using old-school methods to keep kids engaged, technology still has a crucial role to play in keeping learning fun, modern and relevant – there’s a balance to be struck. A well-planned day of schooling should include a combination of these old-fashioned and tech-based solutions, to keep things varied and exciting for your class.

To incorporate tech into the classroom appropriately, why not try using an interactive display for your lessons? Using an interactive whiteboard in the classroom is a great way to enhance the learning experience and capture the interest of your students.

Learn more about our Promethean displays and teaching software by scheduling a live demo.


How can I get students to participate more in class discussions?

Practice some teaching strategies to engage students in the classroom and encourage them to speak up. You can do this by encouraging student-led discussions, cold-calling or using the think-pair-share method.

How can I make learning more meaningful and relevant to students?

You can make learning more meaningful and relevant to students by connecting it to their interests and experiences. For example, say your students have a cross-country run coming up. Relate this to your math lesson by teaching them how to calculate running speed by dividing distance over time.

How can I provide effective feedback to students?

Provide feedback that is specific, timely, and actionable. Give students the opportunity to reflect on their own learning and make improvements. Use a variety of feedback methods, including verbal, written, and visual feedback.

How can I create a positive classroom culture?

You can create a positive classroom culture by showing appreciation for students and giving positive feedback. You can also communicate your expectations for behaviour and consistently enforce them. Additionally, you can decorate the classroom with positive quotes and hang up student work. This will instill positive feelings when students enter the class.

Do you want to learn more about student engagement? Check out some additional resources below!
What is student engagement?
12 Student Engagement Strategies
How Do You Keep Students Engaged at the Beginning and End of a Lesson?
The benefits of reflection in education
How to Engage Shy and Quiet Students in The Classroom?
How to Engage Disengaged Students
How to Engage Students in a Hybrid Learning Class
How To Engage University Students
How to Engage International Students