Jan 05

How to Keep Students Engaged: What Do Students Want?

As teachers, we face a fundamental responsibility to encourage engaged learning among our students, but there’s more to student engagement than ensuring they’re paying attention or cooperating during lessons. The best learning occurs when teachers’ methods and materials create classroom experiences that spark students’ imagination, motivation, and curiosity. This post presents how to keep students engaged by creating opportunities with which they’ll actually want to engage.

Why Is Student Engagement Important?

While teachers’ preferred methods to keep students actively engaged in learning differ, educators have long agreed on the importance of active participation and engagement among learners. 

  • In a nationwide EdWeek Research Center survey, teachers cited low student engagement as education’s largest issue.
  • Research showed that inattentive, withdrawn, or disengaged students displayed poorer academic performance than engaged students. 
  • A Gallup poll found that student engagement is significantly related to better student outcomes. Another survey found that highly engaged students earn better grades and are more likely to be hopeful about their future than their actively disengaged peers.

How Do You Keep Students Actively Engaged in Learning?

Keeping students engaged is an ongoing and ever-evolving challenge. It’s only natural for students of all ages to experience a drop-off in their engagement levels from time to time, but refocusing their attention, battling boredom, and combating complacency are critical factors in helping them comprehend and apply what they need to learn. Here are some student engagement strategies you may try in your classroom:

Get Started with a Warm-Up

Not just in the morning—although, especially in the morning—students may have difficulty immediately jumping into a lesson, lecture, or assignment. A brief warm-up activity to ease into class helps students settle in and gets them engaged from the beginning. 
A time-efficient icebreaker or a brief conversation on topics of interest to your students builds rapport and creates a relaxed environment where they feel more comfortable sharing ideas and participating in collaborative discussions.

Make Your Classroom an Interactive Space

Young people prefer interactivity, and it’s vital in reaching everyone, from struggling students to advanced learners. One of the easiest ways to get students involved is to break up a lesson’s lecture into chunks by asking questions and providing opportunities for your students to ask you questions. Thought-provoking questions—including cold calls—can drive rich, engaging discussions and encourage students to participate. 

Encourage students to share thoughts and opinions on new subjects or debatable issues or host targeted brainstorming sessions to engage students at the beginning of a lesson. Something said by a classmate may pique others’ interest, fostering anticipation and encouraging engagement as you teach a new subject they want to learn. 

Most students will enjoy the opportunity to get up out of their seats for physically interactive activities that incorporate movement. Bring students to the front of the class to have them take notes on the board or set up stations to have them rotate around different areas. Have young students “take a stand,” answering a question or indicating an opinion by relocating to designated parts of the room. At any age, a brief “seventh-inning stretch” can help students step back, relax, and refocus. 

Incorporate Storytelling and Games into Your Lessons

Storytelling is an effective classroom strategy because it engages both the emotional and logical areas of students’ brains. Utilizing multiple brain regions strengthens students’ recall of facts and information presented during a story.

Teaching through storytelling can inject interest into otherwise mundane subjects and help students become invested in their learning. Incorporate drama and give them stories, topics, or characters to engage them.

Students perhaps learn best and are most engaged when they’re having fun. Whether you’re quizzing students through a round of classroom Jeopardy, encouraging online educational games, or spinning up a quick social game as an elementary classroom management tool at the end of the day, most students will welcome gamifying learning.

Smart Use of Smart Tech

The current generation of students is drawn to technology and enjoys experimenting with apps, games, and learning materials on devices such as SMART Boards, computers, and tablets. Quiet or reserved students who don’t normally want to speak up to participate, especially, may prefer engaging through a live survey or Q&A response system.
Technology creates a more dynamic learning environment when integrated alongside traditional instruction styles. From presenting media and informative videos to working with interactive, collaborative software on group projects, the possibilities for digital content and online resources are many. To get started, try the top 10 teacher picks for best technology tools of 2021.

Give Students Choices

If you aren’t sure how to engage students, ask them. Some ideas for choices include:

  • What topic they’ll learn about next 
  • How they like to learn it 
  • Which activities they want to accomplish
  • How they prefer to present what they’ve learned

Allowing students to make choices and have some control over an aspect of their education gives them a sense of responsibility for their learning and makes them more likely to engage in activities.

Discover More Strategies for Engaging Students in Learning with Avanti

Engaging students is critical for their day-to-day and long-term success as learners, and teachers can always use new strategies. The Avanti library includes more than 100 brief, on-demand instructional videos on student engagement alone. Sign up for a free seven-day trial to browse the growing collection of strategies, teaching techniques, and other creative ways to engage students. 

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