Teacher Resources: 3 Ways to Hook into Student Engagement



Introduction
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Contemporary classrooms are host to tons of modern learning hurdles. Often today's students are overstimulated, distracted and struggle to focus.

When traditional classroom techniques fail, it may be time to embrace some of the leaps and bounds made in the teaching field in the past few years.

Here are three current, practical tips and tools to improve student engagement and focus in your classroom.

Implement Active Learning Techniques
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One of the academic buzzwords in recent years, active learning simply translates to prompting your students to participate. Active learning is the answer to the dominant exercise of passively sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture or lesson. It makes sense.

If you give your students specific activities to complete related to your lesson objectives, they are more likely to retain and apply the lesson's concepts. It sounds simple. However, every classroom is different and just because a question-and-answer session worked well in one class doesn't mean you will see the same success in another. Because of this, active learning has to be intuitive and often organic.

When you get a sense that your students are interested in a discussion, integrate the discussion into the lecture, even if you'd planned to quickly move on to the next topic. Try impromptu writing assignments that relate to both the educational subject and apply to their own lives or interests.

Integrating active learning strategies requires experimentation. Accept that some ideas may work, and some, probably many, will fail. But in simply trying something different, you will have your students' attention.

The important guidelines for active learning activities are to set clear expectations of what you hope to accomplish, develop effective evaluation methods for the exercise, and always provide your students with helpful feedback.

Ask Open-Ended Questions
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Theoretically, the more a student contributes in class, the more engaged they become, and a student is more likely to contribute to a discussion when they find the dialogue meaningful. It is easy for an educator to grow comfortable with the techniques you have implored for years, but to genuinely reach your students, you have to make an effort to meet them halfway.

If the curriculum requires the teaching of a text that is two decades old, find parallels to modern characters and works that your students are interested in. Students also gain interest when offered a variety of opinions and perspectives. Encourage as many different opinions as you can get, and back up their input through tying it to the assignment or literature.

The open-ended question allows the discussion to go somewhere, even if it isn't the destination you might have had in mind. Allow the discussion to divert off course, as long as the conversation is relevant, it will discourage them from feeling obliged to simply regurgitate the responses of others.

Employ Gaming
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Students, particularly in K-12 classroom, need to be occupied through multiple means. Give them something to touch, something to use their hands, aside from swiping the screens of iPads and tablets.

Puzzles are a natural tool for use in education as they present students with a problem and ask that they use reasoning skills to solve them. In language courses, learning new words and expanding vocabulary is necessary in the developmental years, and by using games and puzzles you are providing a fun learning environment that children will be more enthusiastic about.

If the tools available to you are outdated, create your own with online sites that allow you to edit and update your own games and puzzles depending on changes in curriculum.

Conclusion

As an educator, you have your work cut out for you.

Most of the time, students are difficult to engage because they simply would rather be anywhere else than in a classroom. With a few tools and tips for modernizing and adapting your teaching techniques, you can take back the classroom and show your students that learning really is fun.

About the Author

Caroline Hampton is a teacher and concerned parent. She created OpenEducators.org to make it easier for teachers (and parents) to find reliable, engaging educational resources for the children in their care.

In addition to working on the site, Caroline enjoys spending her time organizing events at her church, cycling, and of course, hanging out with her husband and two kids.




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