By Teachers, For Teachers
How we use teaching strategies to engage our students in content and keep them motivated to learn has been a task that teachers have struggled with since the beginning of time. Students’ short attention spans have been on top of the list of challenges that all teachers face. The only difference is that 50 years ago we didn’t have technological distractions, but we did have other distractions. Children may have just been preoccupied by what was going on outside of the window or daydreaming about their lives. Today’s teachers are still struggling to keep their students’ attention long enough for them to learn something that they can take with them in their own lives. Here are a few teaching strategies to help you overcome the struggles of student engagement in your classroom.
If you think that technology is a distraction and that’s why you’re choosing not to incorporate it into too many lessons, then you may want to think otherwise. Advanced technology shouldn’t be to blame for the lack of our students’ engagement. Instead we should use it to our advantage. Today’s students are more familiar with technological tools then any generation before them. Many of them know how to use these devices better than adults do. Plus, what child doesn’t love playing games on an iPad? If you want to get and keep your students’ attention, then you must incorporate some sort of technology into your daily lessons.
Questioning students is the foundation of teaching, and when done effectively, it can transform a traditional teacher-led classroom into a more-engaging, student-led classroom. By asking questions, you are keeping students on high alert. When students are on high alert, they are more apt to stay engaged in the lesson. The key is to not just call upon a random student to ask them a difficult question to see if they are engaged in the lesson. The worst feeling for a child is to be called upon from the teacher and not know the answer even if you were paying attention. Consider asking clear, specific questions that build depth as well as complexity. Ask multiple simple questions instead of complex ones. For example, when responding to a student, ask “What do you think? Why do you think that? How do you know this?” This will make the student more comfortable as well as keep them engaged in the content.
If you want to break the barriers of student engagement, and want to see your students actively engaged in all of your lessons, than you must design them so that they are engaging. You need to create lessons that students will be excited about. Make them bright, colorful, and interactive. A great way to do this is to tempt your students and make them look forward to learning. For example, on Monday and every day after that, entice the students about the great lesson that they will be doing on Friday. Each day, give them a little bit more information about it and show them a tantalizing piece of it. By Friday, the students will be so excited about the lesson that even the shy students will be engaged and talking about it!
Create a classroom environment where students feel safe and comfortable. By building a classroom community, you are teaching students about respect, responsibility, and how to positively relate to their peers. This allows them to ultimately feel comfortable with their peers so they are able to freely speak up in class and be engaged in the classroom lessons. Try having a classroom meeting each morning. This is not only a great way to make students feel comfortable to speak and be engaged in the lessons, but also it will help students develop lifelong communication skills.
Digital distractions aren’t the only thing to blame on lack of student engagement. Poor nutrition and lack of sleep are to blame as well. Many students’ diets, or lack thereof, can lead to a poor attention span and performance in school. A child’s lack of sleep can also contribute to them giving their full potential in school. If a student is tired and hungry, how can we expect them to be engaged in our lessons? This is when we need to educate our students on proper sleep and nutrition and overall healthy well-being. Encourage students to eat healthy meals and go to bed at reasonable hour. Tell them to unplug from their digital devices at least an hour before bedtime and to not have a television in their room. Remind students that being fit, getting enough sleep, and eating right play an important role in their academic success at school.
What teaching strategies do you use to overcome the barriers of student engagement? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your opinions on this topic.
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.