By Teachers, For Teachers
Educators have long struggled with discovering teaching strategies that keep their students engaged in their lessons for some time now. Studies spanning back more than 50 years show that students can only keep their attention for about 15 minutes at time before their attention wavers. Students’ short attention spans have been on the top of the list for challenges that teachers face. Oftentimes this is due to digital distractions, or lack of sleep, or poor nutrition. Whatever the case may be, teachers are still struggling to keep their students’ attention long enough for them to learn something that they can take with them. Here are a few teaching strategies that you can use to overcome the struggles of student engagement in your classroom.
First and foremost, if you want your students to be engaged in what they’re learning, then you must you must educate them on proper sleep and nutrition. Many students’ diets (or lack thereof) can lead to a poor attention span, and therefore, performance in school. A child’s lack of sleep can also contribute to the way they perform in school. If a student is tired and hungry, how can we expect them to be engaged in the lessons that we teach? This is why we need to educate our students on proper sleep and nutrition, because when we do, they can live up to their full potential.
Try and encourage students to eat healthy meals and go to bed at a reasonable hour. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended duration of sleep children ages 6-13 years old should have is between 9-11 hours per night. Teenagers ages 14-17 should get 8-10 hours, and young adults ages 18-25 should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Tell students to unplug from their digital devices at least an hour before bedtime, and to not have a TV in their bedrooms. Also, remind students that being fit, getting enough sleep, and eating right all play an important role in their success in school.
Children today are more familiar with technological tools then any generation before them. Many of these children know how to use these devices better than us adults do. Children love iPads, computers, tablets and playing games on apps. Many times this is where most of the students thrive the most, using technology. If you want to get, as well as keep, your students’ attention, then you must incorporate some sort of 21st-century piece of technology into your daily curriculum.
If you want to see your students be actively engaged in all of your lessons, than you must design them so that they are engaging. They should not only be exciting, but they should also look exciting. This means they must be bright, colorful, and interactive. Think about the food that you love to eat. Are you going to eat something that looks delicious or something that looks disgusting? Just like food, you need to create lessons that students will be excited about completing. A great way to do this is to foreshadow the students. For example, on Monday and every day after that, you can foreshadow the students about the great lesson that they will be doing on Friday. Each day you can give them a little bit more information about what they’ll be doing by showing them a sneak piece of the lesson. Then, by Friday, the students will be so excited about the lesson that even the shy students will be engaged and talking about it.
Another effective way to engage your students is through questions. Questioning students is the foundation of teaching, and when it’s done effectively, it can truly transform a classroom. By asking questions, you are keeping students on their toes. When students are on high alert, then they are more apt to stay engaged in the lesson. However, you need to tread lightly, because you don’t want to cause students anxiety by putting any student on the spot. The worst feeling a child can have in school is when they’re called on from the teacher and don’t know the answer (even if they were paying attention). Don’t just call any random student to ask them a difficult question to see if they are engaged in the lesson. Instead, consider asking clear, specific questions that can build depth and complexity. For example, when responding to a student, ask “What do you think? Why do you think that? How do you know this?” This will help the students stayed engaged in the lesson without giving them anxiety.
Lastly, it’s essential that you create a classroom environment where students feel safe and comfortable. When building a classroom community, you are teaching students about respect, responsibility, and how to positively relate to their classmates. This allows them to ultimately feel comfortable with their peers so they are able to speak freely in class, as well as be engaged in the classroom lessons. An easy way to create a welcoming atmosphere is to have a classroom meeting in the morning. All you need is a few minutes of time for students to speak, listen, exchange ideas, or even settle their differences with a classmate. Classroom meetings can set the tone for the rest of the day. This is not only a great way to make students feel comfortable enough to speak in class, but it’s also a great way to keep students engaged in the lessons and help students develop lifelong communication skills.
What are some teaching strategies that you increase student engagement in your classroom? Please share your tips and thoughts with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.