Engaging students is one of the biggest challenges facing teachers now and in the future. Sustaining their interest can be difficult, and a lack of understanding about what ‘engagement’ means only makes things trickier. Student engagement is crucial to learning and personal development. The more engaged a student is, the more they focus and get the most out of their lessons.
What is engagement?
Keeping students engaged is about more than getting them to sit up straight and listen. According to research, there are different levels:
- Behavioral engagement — represented by good behavior in the classroom
- Emotional engagement — where children like and/or value what they are doing
- Cognitive engagement — a psychological state where students put in a lot of effort to understand a topic
To truly maximize engagement in elementary classrooms, teachers must be able to inspire all three. These five strategies help educators captivate the underlying enthusiasm in every student:
1) Provide choice
Students are more likely to be motivated when they have a say in what they’re doing. Of course, we can’t expect them to be entirely independent, but giving them control of small things throughout the day helps build autonomy and decision making.
In elementary schools, teachers can achieve this by offering a choice of assignments or activities. By providing options, learning becomes student led rather than teacher led, bolstering student engagement levels. You can also find out their preferred learning styles and cater to them in lesson plans.
Even giving students the pick of where they want to work, like at a desk or in a group floor space with cushions, can help maximize engagement.
2) Get to know your students
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But by taking the time to find out more about what each child likes to do outside of the classroom, teachers can bring this information into lesson planning, referencing it in examples and assignments.
In elementary schools, this could be as simple as asking children to make a moodboard of their interests, with guidance on what to include (what are your hobbies, what is your favorite animal, which country would you like to visit?) Once collated, teachers can use this information to personally connect with students, making lessons more meaningful and engaging.
3) Make it fun
For many students, assessments can be stressful. However, with frequent quizzes beneficial to learning, teachers can engage them while gathering insight into their progress.
Use fun quizzes and polls to facilitate active participation and share work with the whole class using device mirroring, to stimulate discussion and active participation.
Instant assessment tools also let teachers mark and collate responses in the moment of learning, in real time. By immediately identifying and addressing any knowledge gaps, teachers can tailor lessons to the real needs of each student. Find out more about how technology can aid learning and assessment.
4) Harness the power of technology in the classroom
Today’s students grew up surrounded by tech, so it makes sense to make it a regular part of the classroom. Social media apps like Pinterest can be used to showcase exemplary work with teachers pinning student work to a special board to celebrate their achievements.
Educational tools like Bee-Bots provide colorful, easy-to-operate, friendly little robots that are perfect for teaching young children about sequencing, estimation, and problem solving.
5) Foster collaboration
When students work effectively together, engagement is intensified. Collaborative learning helps ensure the active participation of each student. However, left to their own devices, children are likely to form and stay in the same ‘cliques’. It can be difficult for less confident students to shine in group activities, particularly when they fall into an established role within a group.
To help create a sense of connection to others during class activities, elementary school teachers can create more fluid teams by grouping children by different traits each day, such as birth month or favorite food. Over time, this approach helps break down barriers between children.
Fostering individual accountability by assigning different roles and appraising both the student and the group performance also helps maximize the benefits of collaborative learning.
Student engagement is crucial to learning and personal development. The more engaged a student is, the more they study, absorb, and learn. A lack of engagement doesn’t just impact individual students, but can also have a knock-on effect on the wider class. Students who are sunk in chairs, disruptive, or not paying attention can be demotivating for other students and teachers.
Promethean’s edtech solutions can help. Cultivating interaction and collaborative learning, ActivInspire lets students play an active part in their studies, increasing the depth of student engagement. Easy to adopt but hugely rewarding, ActivInspire doesn’t require any change in teaching approach, it’s simply an enablement tool which supports teachers every step of the way with a wealth of resources.