Oct 28

Seven Student Engagement Activities to Improve Learning

As teachers well know, activities to engage students in the classroom are key to learning success. That said, student engagement can be hard to attain, especially when students can’t see how the lesson’s subject applies to their lives. For those looking for some student engagement strategies to help maintain their students’ interest, attention, and enthusiasm, this post contains eight examples of student engagement activities to try in the classroom.

1. Lesson Flipping

Lesson flipping is a modern reinvention of the classroom based on the premise that a lot of course material doesn’t require the presence of the teacher. In their 2012 book, Flip your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams postulate that classroom time is best used for student and teacher interactions. 

The authors suggest that students engage with textbook material and online content outside of class. Then when students come together to discuss what they have watched or read, it encourages lively discussions, respectful disagreements, and active student engagement.

With this method, classrooms are no longer places where a teacher imparts knowledge by rote but one where teachers can shepherd students’ learning and engagement.

2. Partnered Quizzes

Partnered quizzing gauges how much students know about a new topic before it’s taught. This activity leverages the inherently competitive nature of students and gamifies the learning process, resulting in higher engagement.

Students take turns asking one another questions using quiz cards. It’s not essential to make the results of quizzes public, nor is it necessary for teachers to know how students answered the questions.

Instead, teachers can scan the room and listen in on students’ discussions, offering hints or things to think about and encourage students to reconsider any presuppositions. Later, once the subject is explored fully, teachers can measure how much students have learned with a formal quiz or test.

3. Stand Up/Sit Down

The afternoon hours can be a time of low energy for students. Incorporating physical activity into a lesson is among the more creative ways to engage students. Stand up/sit down activities get them out of their seats and help keep them active and attentive while considering answers to questions posed by the teacher. 

During these activities, students stand up or sit down to indicate their answers. There’s no score keeping, assigning grades, or penalizing incorrect answers. The activity triggers students’ competitiveness while using physical activity to foster engagement.

4. Stories, Not Essays

Many students aren’t engaged with writing assignments that are too wide-ranging, too narrow, or too dull. And some topic choices can disadvantage some students. For example, the classic “What I did this weekend” prompt may be great for children busy with activities or lots of friends and resources but might not be ideal for introverted or economically disadvantaged students. Instead, offer a choice of topic—two or three possible subjects or prompts that are sufficiently varied, ensuring there is an option to engage each student.

Many students enjoy telling stories, gossiping about teachers, telling jokes, recounting an episode of a favorite show, or simply letting their imaginations run wild. If the design of a writing assignment can extract students’ natural love of storytelling, the work becomes more engaging to more of the class.

5. Group Puzzles

Teachers can turn most activities into puzzles, and it can be fun to take a little time out from each class to offer a puzzle for groups to solve. Group puzzles can work well in language and writing classes (ordering words on individual cards into a sentence, for example) but can also be applied to science subjects, math, and more.

When students work together, they are often more engaged. Mix and vary the groups over time to help students learn to collaborate with more than just their close friends.

6. Response Cards

An alternative to raising hands, using response cards can add a bit of fun to soliciting student responses. Students pre-complete cards with various possible answers, such as the main emotions a character in a book may be feeling. They are then asked to hold up their best guesses in response to questions from the teacher.

The act of choosing between alternatives forces students to think through their choices and ensures everyone must participate, not just those who know the correct answer. It promotes active student engagement by including aspects of game-playing and decision-making using props as a tool for learning.

7. Show-and-Tell

Show-and-tell encourages creativity through self-expression and allows a degree of spontaneity to kick off the classroom’s daily proceedings. Rather than bringing objects from home, teachers can encourage students to choose interesting articles or excerpts from books within the classroom. Alternatively, students could share personal achievements or insight into their preferences (such as why one color is their favorite) or talk about an inspiring public figure.

Rather than have students stand at the front of the class, it may be easier for introverted individuals to speak from their desks. The unpredictable nature of student contributions can produce interesting jumping-off points for discussion related to relevant topics. The technique increases engagement by freeing students’ imaginations to make choices and expand their innate storytelling skills.

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