12 Ways to Get Students Engaged in Learning

Students do not always enjoy their school experiences for one reason or another. It may be the environment, the methods of instruction, or the teacher–student relationships. So, how do we help students love learning in a way that lets them retain a passion for learning throughout their lives?

What should teachers do to ensure students successfully grasp, retain, and apply new material? You need to recruit their interest. And that means finding ways to make learning “relevant, authentic, and valuable” in students’ lives. Through the following strategies, you can show kids that learning is fun and valuable, making them fully engaged in everything you teach them. Help students love learning again, and always—it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give them as an educator.

Here are the measures that you can take to engage students in learning:

1. Create an Emotionally Safe Classroom

Students who have been shamed or belittled by the teacher or another student will not effectively engage in challenging tasks. Try to have rules in place, such as “We do not put others downs, tell others to shut up, or laugh at people.” Apply it to yourself as well as your students.

2. Start the Class with a Warm-Up

A classic warm-up is to write some points related to what was taught in the previous class and ask students to find the mistakes planted in that material on the board. Let teams of three students work together to find the mistakes.

3. Tap into Students’ Prior Knowledge

Link the course or lesson with their prior knowledge. Students become more interested in the lecture when they have prior knowledge of the topic. Find out what your students already know because it can help you in tailoring your course and lessons to the right academic challenge level. To do this, ask a few open-ended questions to students or make them answer some multiple-choice questions which are based on the information you expect them to know already. This will help you in identifying the gaps in understanding of the students and the areas which they are already aware of.

4. Learn Students’ Interests

Students are more motivated to learn if they see the connection between course materials and their personal interests. So, find out what your students like the most or are passionate about. Incorporate such areas of interests in your course outline, which will act as the natural motivators and make them more engaged in learning. This will also help them in understanding the material better and will increase their retention ability.

For example, suppose you are a chemistry teacher. Instead of just blandly giving them facts, start off the lesson by asking students what their favorite foods are. Suppose some say pizza, and some say macaroni and cheese, and another says lasagna. The common theme is cheese. Ask your students why they think cheese tastes good and go on to talk about the chemistry of cheese. Teach them how different chemicals react with each other to make their favorite ingredient taste great.

5. Organize Classroom Discussions

A teacher shouldn’t always be at the center of discussion. They should encourage the students to share experiences and events from their lives, both inside and outside the learning curve. They should be allowed to discuss whatever information they like discussing. Sometimes, you can decide some topics for them to have a debate on and to share their individual perspective, about a specific theme. This will enable the class to address important topics from multiple perspectives, thus increasing students’ curiosity for, and engagement with, course content.

6. Ask Them Questions and Make Them Ask Questions

To ensure that students are actively thinking, regularly ask questions to which everyone must prepare at least one answer. By asking questions that allow for multiple answers or explanations, everyone is expected to come up with at least one answer, but some may come up with more. You can then call on volunteers who want to share their answers with the rest of the class. This strategy challenges them to operate at a higher level of thinking than merely settling for only the “correct” answer. Make sure every student gets to participate in answering some time or the other and it is not just the same bunch of students answering every time.

Similarly, encourage students to interrupt you and ask questions when they do not understand any part of the lesson you are teaching. Then follow those questions up with additional questions, getting your students to think critically about the topic.

This helps students realize the complexity of the world, and how different types of knowledge are connected to each other. It shows them that a seemingly simple question can open up all sorts of new knowledge for them to learn. This method also helps students realize how much they already know. This makes them feel intelligent and empowered, giving them the confidence to continue learning throughout their lives.

7. Give Students Choices

Engagement increases whenever students are empowered to make their own choices about how they learn. Here are a few suggestions: Allow them to set the pace. Let your students choose their own starting point on an assignment, and they will stay comfortable and challenged. For example, try giving your students tiered math problems, with increasing levels of difficulty. Once students choose a starting point, the teacher can guide them through increasing levels of mastery.

8. Teach Students Self-Monitoring Skills

An advanced way of involving children so they stay engaged in their learning is to help them develop greater self-regulation skills. Children sometimes struggle with self-awareness, so they may not even realize when they are straying off task or acting in disruptive ways. When children are taught to regulate their behavior and work independently, they develop habits to help them succeed and you are freed to operate more flexibly in the classroom.

Self-monitoring of attention (SMA). Instruct students to evaluate whether or not they have been paying attention at random intervals throughout the school day. This is usually accomplished with an auditory cue like a chime or tone, which prompts each child to reflect on questions like Am I at my desk? and Am I listening to the teacher? Students record their answers on a simple SMA tally sheet.

9. Give Them Hands-On Experiences

Learning is always more fun if it’s hands-on. So, give students a chance to apply what they have learned. For instance, give them some safe but enjoyable experiments they can do, such as mixing two chemicals to see how they react. If you are teaching a history lesson, have students come up with skits where they act like the historical figures they are studying. These activities help students feel more connected to what they are learning. This also makes the lessons easier to remember. After all, it is far easier to recall something you did than something you were told.

10. Integrate Modern Technology

The majority of teachers are adopting more advanced applications of technology. Such measures are adopted to encourage student engagement in learning at a better level, make them exert more effort in learning and to make them excited to accomplish their learning goals. Some of the examples you can refer to are the following: mLearning, game-based learning, adaptive learning, and virtual reality.

In-classroom technologies—podium-based computers, wireless, real-time response systems (e.g., clickers) and web-based tools (e.g., blogs, online forums, wikis, podcasts, etc.)—have a high potential for supporting student learning in creative and innovative ways when properly aligned with the instructor’s learning objectives and course content.

11. Flipped Classroom

Students are asked to prepare the lessons in advance by referring some video tutorials. So when teacher discusses the lesson in the class, students would find the subject more engaging and interesting.

12. Take Small Breaks

Instead of hour long teaching sessions, take some small breaks in between. This will refresh the minds of students. You can talk or share something out of the syllabus and indulge in chit chat with the students.

Call to Action

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All of the above approaches to boost students’ engagement in learning are not difficult to implement but they require you to plan adequately ahead of time. This way the teachers can deepen the students’ knowledge, build a strong relationship with students and develop instructional and curriculum practices which are way more meaningful to students. This will eventually bring positive outcomes for everyone associated with the course, both the students and teachers.

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