Strategies To Engage Students In Lessons

by | Aug 30, 2022 | Back to School, Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

As a teacher, you work hard to get to know your students, build a classroom community, and learn the standards. 

You also have to figure out how to present your lessons. How we organize our material can determine whether our students are engaged in the lesson or are completely zoned out. 

I don’t think any of us need to become entertainers to engage our students – but I do believe that learning how to make your lessons more student-centered can make a world of difference. 

Here are some of my favorite strategies to get students engaged in learning.

Strategies to Engage Students in Lessons

Relevant Content

How many times have you heard a student angrily ask “why do I need to know this”? 

If your students are like mine were, a lot

Get your students involved by helping them understand why they need to know what you are teaching them. Relate it back to their lives, and, if possible, show them how to use the content now.

If students can see they will use what they learn, it makes them far more interested and engaged. 

 

Interactive Lessons

If you’ve ever sat through a meeting or professional development session, you know for sure teachers don’t enjoy being lectured to. Students don’t like it either. 

Just like in meetings, a short lecture can be an excellent way to present information – but being the “sage on the stage” for a long time causes listeners to mentally disengage. Instead, limit teacher-directed instruction and provide more student-led learning time.

My favorite way to get students involved in learning is by using the jigsaw method, where students become experts on part of the information and present what they’ve learned to the class. Methods like this keep engagement levels up, make students feel like they matter, and help students retain what they learn. 

If you aren’t sure how the jigsaw method works, Reading Rockets has a great explanation here.

Student Choice

You may feel like it’s counterproductive to give up control of your classroom, but sometimes letting students choose how a lesson is presented keeps students engaged longer. 

You can provide choice in several easy ways, including topic and method of demonstrating what they learn. 

For example, perhaps you offer multiple ways for students to “read” a lesson. You could record yourself teaching the information and post it for students. Students could also read the lesson. Some students might want to read alone, while others could read together.

Another example would be providing choice in how students show their mastery of the information or skill. While some students might prefer doing a traditional report, others may want to record a podcast or create a website.

 

Technology

Teachers have really had to learn how to use technology over the last few years. 

I know that every district is different and we don’t all have access to the same type of technology. 

Even so, I do think using the technology you do have can engage students. Like any other tool, technology can be overused. But if used strategically, it can both increase student learning and engagement.

You need to balance using technology in ways that students already know with finding novel ways to integrate it in lessons. Students can use technology to present their learning in different ways, as well as to learn the material through videos, online texts, games, or webquests. 

Another way to use technology that is “out-of-the-box” is to have your class email or video call another class. Some teachers work together to have their classes work together on a topic. Others connect for geography games or penpals. There are a lot of ways students from different states – or countries – could work together. 

Kinesthetic Activities

I like getting students out of their seats and moving around while they learn. 

Instead of reading from the textbook, break the information into single pages, post each page in a different location for a gallery walk. 

An active alternative for writing quietly could be having students discuss and debate what they learned. 

Another idea is to use review games at the end of a unit. Students could play in small groups or on teams.

 

Audio/Video Lesson

There are times when your students (and you) are just really tired of hearing your voice. 

Finding a short video that introduces or concludes your topic is a great way to shake up the lesson and re-engage students. 

Another thought is using an audiobook for your read-aloud or novel unit. My son enjoys audiobooks, and some of the readers are amazing. (Others, not so much.) A great audiobook can really hook students into the story.

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Group Configurations

When working in the jigsaw method or using other collaborative methods, have students work together. 

To make group work more engaging, I would mix up my groups pretty regularly. Some students don’t enjoy group work, and others only want to work with the same kids, so alternating student choice with my choice of groups was a great way to keep it fresh – and prevent problems.

Sometimes I created groups with a mix of abilities. Other times I grouped people together to work on a particular topic. 

 

Question and Answer

I found “question and answer” to be one of the easiest ways to change the format of my lesson. 

All you need to do is prepare a few questions to ask throughout your lesson and open the classroom for a short discussion around each question. 

You’ll be pleased to see your students engaging in the content as they discuss it amongst themselves. 

A way to switch up question and answers is to have groups of students find the answer to a specific question and have them present it to the class. 

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Flipped Classroom 

A flipped classroom scenario is when students enter your classroom having already watched or read the content of the lesson (usually the night before.) This way, students come to class ready to engage with the content via activities or discussion. 

Some flipped classrooms have “homework” time during class, which allows the teacher to be one-on-one with students who need some support. 

 

I hope this list has given you a few ideas for switching up your lessons!

What are your favorite ways to present content to students? 

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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