In a classroom setting it isn’t always easy to get students focused and engaged with the core material. Even when students are interested, or paying out of their own pockets, sometimes they just aren’t in the mood, or find routine boring.
1: Mix it up
When it comes to teaching strategies which fight distraction, there is no one set way of making every lesson engaging. Anything you choose to do can easily become mundane if you do it too often. Remember that these tricks are supplements to your routine, not a new routine.
2: Gamify it
But why try and create a classroom that is forceful in its approach to learning? Cognitive science has found that we all focus better when we are enjoying ourselves. Gamification is the name given to the process where we turn repetitive chores into games. Why do we spend hours doing the same thing in a minigame but get bored of doing the same thing at work? Because the minigame is rewarding. Apply game strategies to your lessons and watch your students’ motivation soar.
3: Get students moving
One of the most effective student engagement strategies is to connect the lesson to an action. Most people learn best by practising, because this tells our brain that the information is useful. Whether your students are learning Spanish and practising by speaking, or learning code and practising by putting together a simple software program, move beyond textbooks and lectures when teaching.
4: Turn students into teachers
They say teaching a subject is one of the best ways to learn it, and this stands up to scrutiny. Just like with gamification and practising, when students teach one another they are able to convince their brains that this information is really important. Getting your student to make a small presentation, or simplify the lesson into their own words, can really help them recall and use what they’ve learnt.
5: Consider your students’ individual needs
Each person is an individual, and as individuals we all learn slightly differently. This difference may not be enough to put standardized textbooks and exams out of business, but it is definitely enough for a teacher to consider and be highly sensitive to. Always make sure that, whichever strategy you are using, all your students can benefit. If not, consider presenting students with two options for the class, to suit different aptitudes and needs.
6: Combine your strategies
A key thing to remember is not to shy away from using many student engagement techniques at once, even if it seems like too much. As long as your lessons are not the same each time, you can mix and match whichever strategies work.
As a final word of caution, remember that classroom fatigue is a real thing. Sometimes students have just worked too hard and need a refreshment and a break to get them in the mood to learn again. If your students seem fatigued, you may actually need a five minute chill, not a new engagement technique.