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Few things can be as disheartening for a schoolteacher as seeing students dozing off or completely disconnecting from the subject at hand. You probably spend a lot of time on building your courses and have to deal with the stress of having your students perform well, so disengagement is probably a major concern for you. Luckily, there are many things that you can do as a teacher to keep your students’ attention. They might require a little bit of imagination, and extra work, but it will be well worth it. Let’s take a look at how you can increase engagement in your classes.
Show the Real-Life Applications of What You’re Teaching
One of the major complaints you’ll hear from students is that they won’t be able to use what you teach them in the real world. This is why you need to connect abstract subjects with real-world examples, case studies, and scenarios. This is the only way to show students the importance of what you’re trying to teach them.
Work Together on a Worthwhile Project
Another thing you could do is start a project that will stretch over a few weeks. If you’re teaching ELA, for instance, one of the best options would be to write a book together. Or you could allow each student to write their own book.
This might seem like a complex idea, but it’s very simple once you use the right tools. A tool like Scripsi, for instance, which you can get from Studentreasures.com, will allow your students to write their story in seconds using templates and their own illustrations and publish a professional-looking book. This will keep your students engaged and they will be filled with a sense of pride once they see the fruits of their labor. This might also allow some of them to discover their talent as writers and encourage some of them to pursue writing more seriously.
Get to Know Your Students
The best way to keep your students engaged is to build your curriculum and classwork around their interests. If they’re heavy into video games, for instance, there are plenty of ways that you can gamify their learning experience. There are plenty of math and science-related games that you could work into your classes. You could also make them chart their progress and difference in performance in a particular video game week after week using math.
If students in your classes are heavy into social media, then you could introduce them to web analytics by teaching them to use tools like HubSpot and SproutSocial. Again, you’ll be able to tie coursework with real-life applications, which will instantly boost their interest and make them look forward to the next class.
Identify Fast Learners and Propose Solutions
You have different types of disengaged students. You have students that simply cannot stay focused for long periods, students who are genuinely bored by your teaching style of the subject, and others that are simply not being challenged enough.
You need to be able to identify these students fast and find a way to fill dead time when they have nothing to do. You could keep them engaged by moving them a bit faster through the curriculum, but this might become an issue near the end of the semester.
One thing you could do is speak with the administration and see if there could be a special program set up for overachieving students. This will keep them interested and prevent them from disturbing other students in the classroom if they’re disruptive.
Do More Group Work
We all remember how excited we were as young students when we got to work in teams. Not only did it allow us to work with people we had affinities with, but it also helped us build connections with other students and bounce ideas around. Children love collaboration and collaborative work fosters creativity. It also teaches children how to be good listeners and team members, and to discover their leadership abilities.
By encouraging group work, you will build a more tight-knit group and your students will be much more personality invested in the projects they work on. You can either choose to let students form their whole group or engineer groups yourselves if you find that certain pairings have been troublesome in the past.
Let Your Students Influence the Way Classes are Taught
You can’t give your students full control over how classwork is dispensed, but they can and should have a say if possible. Ask them if they’d like to do more solo work or group work, for instance, and what type of projects they’d like to work in groups on. Also, ask for feedback during classes to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and ask your students if they’d like you to slow down or speed up your delivery pace. You could even let students get involved in assessment design and let them choose the final product as long as it meets the criteria.
Keep Your Students Physically Active
Keeping your students moving is one of the most efficient ways to keep them alert. One of the reasons for this is that blood flow delivers oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and improves focus and concentration. It can also elevate your student’s mood.
One of the things you could do is clear the floor before classes and have everyone perform physical activities, such as frog jumps, jumping jacks, or yoga stretchers, for instance. You’d be surprised at how much more alert and calm your students will be after.
You can also encourage students, especially those who tend to drift away, to come to the board to answer questions. You could also ask one of your best students to explain certain concepts to the class. Students will often understand a subject better when it’s told by someone they relate to, and it will keep your gifted students engaged.
These are all things you can try in your classroom starting today if you want your students to be more engaged and eventually more successful. Always try to find new ways to teach and connect with your students no matter their age or level.