As teachers, we are always looking for that next great idea, which is why I am so excited about this “Bright Ideas Blog Hop!” Consider this your professional development for the next month, because you are going to get a TON of great ideas!
Today I’d like to share three tips for increasing student engagement in your classroom. As teachers, we have the power to engage students in any task. We can transform subject matter from boring to amazing by changing just a few things about how we teach.
- Encourage Inquiry: Even if you do not implement full inquiry-based learning, how can you implement a bit of inquiry into your lessons? Let’s get away from telling students what they need to learn, and let them discover it on their own. A few simple changes can make a big difference. When I taught Grade 4, making musical instruments was a standard project for our Sound unit. At first I asked students to create an instrument that made a sound and had pitch. The next year I simply asked students to build an instrument. Later, I let them experiment with their instrument and make changes in order to give it pitch. I saw a huge increase in student engagement AND they understood the concept much better! Another example is an earthworm experiment that we do in Science. We took shoeboxes and filled them with dirt. I would tell students to add water to one side and leave the other side of the dirt dry. Then we would see which side the earthworm preferred after leaving in the box overnight. Another year I changed the assignment by simply telling students that we wanted to find out whether earthworms preferred wet or dry dirt. I provided them with the materials, and let them design the experiment themselves. Guess what? Students were discussing different options, working collaboratively, and highly engaged. Best of all, students were excited when they got to design the experiment on their own! To me, that is what learning is all about. What small changes can you make in your teaching to give students the opportunity to discover on their own?
- Allow Students to Talk in Partners and Small Groups: Talking about learning is an effective way of processing new information. Although the thought of allowing students to work in partners during Math class may scare some people, there is nothing better than hearing your students discuss their learning and be totally engaged in what they are doing. I especially like to let students do problem-solving activities with a partner. When they discuss how to solve the problem you can clearly see the phases of learning that they are going through. They may also experience a sense of disequilibrium, which will ultimately lead to stronger understanding. What activities do you do on a daily basis, where you could implement partner and small group discussion?
- Ensure a Sense of Power: Everyone likes to have power over their own choices. Take yourself, for instance. Do you like to be told exactly what to do, or do you like to have some creative freedom and power over your own work? Your students like to make choices and have power over what they create. How can you implement power and freedom into your everyday? It can be as simple as making students believe that they came up with an idea, when you were actually guiding them to that idea all along. It’s all in the presentation! As an example, at the beginning of every year, we discuss rules and consequences. My favorite part of this activity is when I ask students what the consequence should be for mis-using technology in the classroom. One year I had a boy suggest, “No technology for a month for that student!” I thought that was a bit harsh (I was thinking more like 2 days of no technology), but the rest of the class agreed with him rather than me. Guess what? No one mis-used our Smartboard or computers that year. 🙂 Students had the power to make the decision, and they felt ownership of that decision. I am a huge believer that students need power and freedom over the majority of their decisions during the school day. In which areas can you give your students some power and freedom, while still achieving your desired outcome?
How can you increase the engagement in your classroom? If you have other ideas or comments, I would love to hear them in the comment section below.
And now, to continue today’s blog hop, I would love to introduce you to Blair Turner of One Lesson at a Time. Blair is sharing a great idea for Valentine’s Day decorating that you can use for a bulletin board or a classroom door! Just click the button below to be taken to her blog!