Saturday, May 22, 2021
Engagement is everything in todays classrooms. If students are not actively engaged then everything else is at risk. Their understanding, their ability to do work independently, and even their ability to think critically all depends on their engagement. As educators, we try everything to actively engage our students. We use manipulatives, videos, colorful visuals and so much more. All of those things are great but there's more to it. I know that many educators also get to know their children personally as well as their interests. This does help a great deal because children love identifying with their teacher and their peers. Social-emotional learning is a great way to help students feel included. There is really so many factors in a child's life that can impact learning positively or negatively. Nevertheless, there is something you can do about it.
Connect! Show You Care!
First, students must know that you care. I'm telling you this works. Sometimes children are dealing with so many insecurities and disparities in there little lives that we may not know about. We are not super heroes but when children feel that your care or they feel comfortable with you, they will share things with you. It can seem like the littlest thing from a hole in their shoe to a bruise. It doesn't matter because, you are a safe place for them. I have had so many situations where students have opened up to me about things that I couldn't readily see. On a softer note, some children open up about all of their interests, likes, and dislikes. What I'm trying to say is that all of this information about your students can help you increase engagement with your content. When choosing stories, content, activities, or visuals, you will have an idea on what will or will not work with your children. So how does this tie into engagement? Even when choosing motivation, extrinsic or intrinsic, it really depends on the students interest. That's a piece of information you can only find out if you get to know the children. Try it out. Show students something that does not align with their interests and show them something that does. I'm not saying that everything we teach students will be what they want to see but at least you have some idea on how to make less interesting things work.
Get their Attention
Now that you know your students and they trust you, you can get their attention. Face it, if you don't have their attention, they will either sleep in your class or daydream. I'm not saying that all of these tips are full-proof but it's a process in the right direction. With the pressures of teaching curriculum and performance on standardized tests, I can honestly say that for the past few years, I was busy spending huge amounts of time on finding resources that teach to test. I really wasn't concerned about anything else, except keeping us above water. It was tiresome, unfulfilling, and guess what: "It doesn't work!" I needed time to motivate, re-energize, and refocus myself on a few things I had forgotten about in my first few years of teaching: "FUN!" I had this epiphany: "I had fallen out of love with teaching." It had become work, work, work." That sounds small but I had to think about what I was doing. In my time off, I had the chance to create more engaging content for my kiddos. Presentation and content matters because, that's how you get and keep their attention. I noticed a difference in my students response to different types of content when presented to them. For example: I could write the parts of the human body on a white board or I can bring an interactive model of the human body. Do you know which approach sparked more discussion? Yes, the interactive life size model of the human body. One of my students literally got up and started teaching the class what he learned about human life. Here's another example: I could display a black and white copy of a counting money worksheet to practice or review money or show a lemonade stand with actual coins to drag and drop. I mean literally I heard one of my students yell, "I LOVE THIS." Even though the word problems embedded were higher order, they didn't even realize it. They were too amazed by the colors, the coins, and their peers names in the word problems. There you have it engaged happy students learning things they didn't think they could.
Transform Learning Into Something Fun
You can take any concept, lesson, or activity and transform it into something fun. All you need to do is give it color, life, and make it interactive. It can be digital or hands on. You can use any digital platform to achieve this. Here is a video on How to Create in Google Slides:
- Get to know your students. (likes, dislikes, interests, etc....)
- Let them know you care.
- Use what you know about them to create content.
- Grab their attention.
- Transform Learning into Something Fun!