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Great strategies to increase student engagement are an essential component to successful teaching, it’s quite simple if you get the foundations right. I truly believe that classroom engagement is the most important thing to conquer. If you don’t get it right it doesn’t matter what else you do!
Whether you are teaching 5-year-old mini ones, teenagers or adults, it is my belief that teacher engagement strategies are the key to allowing your students to flourish. If they don’t want to be there, they are not going to learn.
I’ve done a lot of research myself into how to engage classes and individual students and there are a few methods out there that seem to be well recognised. I don’t want to talk about those, I want to give my own understanding of what it takes to get a student or a class to engage with your lessons.
Before you read on, I want to ask you a question.
What keeps you engaged? Students may be younger than us, they may not have the same interests as us and they may not have all the life pressures we do BUT they are little versions of us and what holds our attention will probably hold their attention.
Do you like being entertained, inspired or challenged? Try tailoring your teaching to what kept you engaged in school and what keeps you interested in something now.
How do you increase student engagement?
1. “School is Boring”. Don’t be the Boring Teacher!
People learn best when they are enjoying what they are doing.
I know this seems obvious but sometimes we lose track of this, especially if you are burdened down with lots of extra responsibilities.
Work to your strengths; If you are a whiz with presentations or resources or if you have the ability to make students laugh, use those skills. It’s ok to be different from the lion share of teachers who bore the shit out of students (I bet you can name a few in your school!) Personally, I’m crap at resource building, I find it tedious and dull but I do use my personality,
I’m a friendly, empathetic person who isn’t afraid of making a fool of himself (just ask my wife!) so around the school, I actively enquire about the student’s interests, fist bump and hi-five and make them laugh.
These actions may sound cringe-worthy and a bit false to you but it works for me because it is natural for me to do this. This leads me on to my next advice.
2. Just Be Yourself.
I learned early on in my teaching career that kids will ALWAYS know if you are pretending.
I took advice from experienced teachers who gave generic tidbits like “don’t smile till Christmas”, “don’t be their friend” and “the classroom is no place for jokes”.
I tried these, believing experienced teachers would know best…..they failed. I struggled in my first teaching post, the students knew I was trying to be something I wasn’t…a hard ass.
Your personality is always your best weapon!
It wasn’t till my second teaching position that I did exactly the opposite of the advice I had been given; my teaching suddenly worked (I need to stress that I don’t want to be their friend, that’s just odd. There is a big difference between being their friend and being friendly…employ the second option only!)
I know that if I’m my usual happy, silly, funny self then my students want to be in my class. I don’t want to come across as arrogant but it’s a fact that students want to be in my classes, this is purely the result of being myself.
3. How Should A Teacher Move in the Classroom?
There’s nothing worse than a teacher who just sits at their desk, it appears like you are not interested in the outcome of your lessons. I teach at 100 mph, I can’t help it; it’s light-speed or stop!
I treat the classroom as my stage and like a good comedian or stage actor I use all of it (yes, I do have a secret desire to be an actor!).
Moving around the class while you teach helps students stay engaged as they have to track what you are doing and where you are (it also helps highlights students who are off task).
Totems help set behaviour.
I have areas (and poses) I use when I want to convey a message non verbally, for example I have my “I need to tell you something serious” seat; all the kids know If I sit on the front of my desk cross-legged, I’m going to level with them and tell them something really important.
I have my “I’m annoyed with the level of chatter” position and pose (usually accompanied by looking at my imaginary watch).
Move, dance, skip, climb on tables (fake sleeping on a desk to show them you are bored of telling them to stay on task has been known to work).
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How do you keep students motivated and engaged?
One word; consistency.
Students, need to know what to expect and will react negatively if they don’t know which version of you they will encounter. If your classroom switches from a happy place to a place where they feel like they are walking on eggshells, they will struggle to maintain long term engagement.
It’s hard to act in the same way all the time, especially with the pressures and stresses of teaching life that always seem to bite us on the ass when we least expect it BUT it is essential you do.
These are the only teacher engagement strategies you will ever need, they may not work for everyone but they work for me. Think of a time you were engaged during your education, why were you engaged? I bet my left leg it was because of a fun, honest, active teacher! If you think you have it nailed, great but don’t rest on your laurels….always analyse your teaching.
Now go be awesome, and educate the masses!
If you have any questions or suggestions please leave a comment.
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