Most high school students want to do their best, but sometimes wanting to succeed isn’t enough.
Students engage on an emotional level, and are driven by the need to think for themselves and have choices. Some of the oft-cited reasons why students don’t perform as well as they should include:
- Students can tell teachers aren’t enthusiastic about what they’re teaching
- The pace of learning is too fast or too slow
- Many classrooms are too sedentary, with little to no freedom for movement and play
- There is a lack of connection between the student and teacher
To create an environment where better, deeper learning is possible, educators should build certain strategies into their lessons to bolster participation and excitement in the classroom.
The new year is a wonderful opportunity to try something different. Here are some ways to engage your students in 2019.
1. Take advantage of technology
Instead of banning devices in the classroom, embrace them! Kids and teenagers are obsessed with technology for a reason – it’s engaging.
- Instead of asking your students to submit a paper to your classroom’s online portal, have them upload it to their own Tumblr, Medium or WordPress blog.
- Having trouble sparking interest in your foreign language class? Have your students download a language aid app like Duolingo and integrate it into your assignments.
- Implement online voting software and activate live ballots during class, and use it as a poll to gauge the impact of your lesson, while adjusting your tactics on the fly.
2. Start a debate
Classroom debate encourages active thinking, and allows room for different perspectives. Here's a simple strategy to encourage useful debates in the classroom:
- Decide on a topic the day before you want to have the debate. The topic can be a current political issue, such as “It should be mandatory that all US citizens vote”. Or it could be a student-facing issue, along the lines of “Students should be allowed to choose all of their classes, not just electives.” Check out this list for many more ideas.
- The next day, announce the topic and divide the classroom up based on whether they are for the resolution or against it. Have each side take turns stating their case, and presenting a rebuttal and summary to the other side.
- For a fresh take, build an online ballot and activate it the night before the debate. Have your students vote on their resolution to minimize peer pressure, and present your findings the next day. At the end of the debate, take note of everyone who stayed their original course, and who changed their mind based on the information presented during class.
3. Let them be the teacher
Some students learn better by doing, so what better way to learn than by teaching?
Student-led teaching involves deeper learning, and lets you see areas of improvement. It also gives students the opportunity to “own” their lesson and imparts a very real sense of empowerment.
How can you help your students achieve this?
- Determine the best schedule for student-led teaching, whether it’s once a week, every day for a week, or once a month.
- Depending your chosen schedule, students should take turns presenting their lessons. They should open with an introduction, a lecture, and end with an open period for questions or comments.
- Don't interrupt. During their lecture, it’s best not to correct or interject. If you need further explanation, ask for specific examples. The goal is to let them lead while building better communication skills.
4. Make it personal
Because some students learn in different ways than others, sometimes it’s necessary to tailor the lesson to the individual. Think about it:
- Do you have a class full of social butterflies? Try an activity that gets them up and moving. Take your English class outside and have them journal about what they see and hear. There's no shortage of ways to leverage this energy for learning.
- If you notice that many of your students like to figure things out on their own, ask open-ended questions after a lesson that allows them to think critically and come to their own conclusion. Have them present their opinions, and encourage the class to participate in an open discussion. Want more ideas on how to improve your students' critical thinking capacity? Click here.
- About 19% of high school students are subject lovers, meaning they really enjoy what they’re learning. To motivate these particular students, it may help to let them drill down into the subject in a new and fun way. Have them create their own “podcast” by allowing them to submit videos of themselves as “subject matter experts” for their next assignment. They can upload them to YouTube to monitor their progress, and by the end of the year they will have sharpened their communication and creative skills.
5. Implement game-based learning
Gamification not only makes learning fun, it also increases comprehension and the ability to apply learning objectives to the real world. Include it in your lesson plans! Why?
- Working with your students to develop a point-based rewards system can work as a motivator and boost engagement. Try rolling it out when students pass certain class “milestones” like record attendance, number of homework submissions or active participation.
- Students need to feel autonomous, meaning they need to be able to make meaningful choices for themselves. They also want to feel connected to others. Gamification gives them both – especially when used in conjunction with software that allows them to learn while interacting with peers. Socrative is a great example of an app that uses game-play to gauge students understanding of topics while promoting connectivity.
6. Use music to create a focused environment
Did you know music not only makes for a pleasant learning environment, but can improve focus?
- Music is known to decrease stress levels and help you relax. It can also elevate your mood. In the classroom, music can activate both the left and right brain at the same time, allowing for better learning and memory retention.
- However, keep in mind that music with lyrics can sometimes be distracting. Hearing words while you’re working can impair word-based tasks such as reading and writing. When your students are working on a project or assignment in class, play either classical or instrumental music.
What tips do you have to improve engagement in the classroom?
If you think online voting can help create a rewarding and exciting environment for your students, check out how our eBallot Essential platform works. It's ideal for teachers and classrooms like yours.