Student Engagement: Capturing the Imagination of Your Classroom

Student Engagement: Capturing the Imagination of Your Classroom

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11/09/2017

Student engagement is part of each and every classroom environment. While you need your students to be focused and interested, you can’t really hope to hold the floor without being truly engaging. But how do you remain consistently interesting and engaging? How does student engagement impact learning?

Read on for a few of our finest tips on the matter:

 

Taking Advantage of Students’ Interests

An oft-overlooked, yet brilliantly simple way to pique the interest of your students is to feature activities, themes and topics that are directly or indirectly related to their interests. Need the students to write an essay? Let them write about their most important hobby. Want to cover a significant historical event the students are not interested in? Try using novel approaches, such as documentaries or role-playing games.

The best way to find out what your students are into is to simply ask them. Even better, you can circumnavigate any likely social pressures and ask them anonymously: whichever suggestion (probably something like video games, movies or sports) is something you can incorporate into your teaching more often.


Changing It Up (Especially with Kids)

One thing about people that rings true regardless of age is that we tend to get bored. While an adult person can sit for hours in lecture halls despite the tedium, teenagers and children can have a hard time focusing at all with drawn-out activities. One particular danger is lecturing for too long. It is not engaging, and, unless if you are a master storyteller, rarely even all that interesting to just sit down and listen for an extended period of time.

The easiest way to counter this is by keeping on swapping activities. In practice, this means that a 10-minute snoozefest monologue becomes 5 minutes of teacher lecture, 2 minutes of students discussing the topic as pairs, and then discussing the same topic together as a class. With no change in the amount of preparation you need to do before the class, you now have a single boring activity split into a far more engaging series of activities.

The best part about this kind of approach is that the best teachers learn to do this on the fly. Are your students exhausted after today’s special three-hour football practice? Cut them some slack and watch a documentary in class and feature more exercises the next day, when they are rested up. While these kind of choices are rarely as clear-cut in the classroom as in this example, the principle still stands.


The Magic of Storytellin
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It’s also important to ask yourself honestly: am I a good storyteller? Granted, some topics are not easily adapted into riveting tales, such as the hardest scientific topics. Still, nothing stops you from trying: why not provide a short intro of every scientific theory you feature? Even if such “padding” may not by itself be very educational or informative, an engaged student is far more eager to learn.

But what makes for good storytelling? This simple questions has no easy answer. Different people find different things interesting, but good storytelling can engage nonetheless. Stories that are relatable, exotic and full of action tend to be the best in terms of classroom engagement. The best reaction I ever got out of a class was the transfixed silence in high school when I showed the students a slideshow of my vacation to Gambia, where I got to pet wild crocodiles!


Individual Learning Experiences

Finally, another great tool in your arsenal is student engagement activities. This is just a fancy way of saying that any activity where students are actually active participants is a good one. One excellent example is quality learning games, because a game provides both a personalized experience and constant engagement. With our GBL service, you can even run ready-made lessons and use analytics to track exactly how your students are doing, and how well they are progressing.

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