There’s no perfect solution to keeping every student engaged in every class. However, there are some techniques to get your students excited, or at the very least paying attention.
Avoiding the traditional lecturing format is a key step toward keeping your students interested. Long sections of class devoted to listening and note-taking are an easy way to lose the attention of every student in the class. While an efficient technique for getting through content, asking your students to be information sponges is ineffective, and actually discourages engagement.
Read on for a few ideas for ways to get your students more excited about class other than the two above, without sacrificing time, content, or efficiency.
1. Interactive lectures
Pick up the pace during lectures, and stop every few sentences to call on a specific student to answer a quick and easy recall question, such as a point from the previous slide. Try pausing mid-sentence and asking students to fill in the blank.
Instead of relying on volunteers, select students at random using popsicle sticks or apps (try randomly) to ensure that everyone is paying attention. This rapid-fire quick quiz method brings an element of excitement to the class. Just be sure to call on every student equally, and try to get through the whole class at least once per lesson for maximum impact.
Another great way to update your lectures is using Socrative. If your students have access to ipads or laptops, pepper your lectures with Socrative prompts. You choose the question format and set time limits, each student will answer on their own, and Socrative will map the answers in a series of graphs. Socrative is a good way to get reluctant students to participate, since their classmates won’t be seeing their answers.
2. Incorporate discussion
Use online backchannels like Todaysmeet to encourage discussions throughout class. These are especially useful during class presentations or socratic seminars; while half the class is watching and silent, they can be reacting to and discussing the points raised out loud by their classmates via the backchannel.
Some teachers even ask students to use the backchannel for anonymous questions or comments while they lecture, which allows even the shyest students to participate.
3. Productive technology
Students know how to interact with technology, and experimenting with it can make class much more fun. Use online learning platforms to mix up the way you deliver content to your students, with video, audio, or other online resources. Try using instructional websites like Khan Academy, incorporating discovery based learning with tools like Labster, or fostering productive competition with quiz games like Kahoot.
Blended learning is an effective method of using technology in the classroom that allows your students to assert some degree of control over their education, encouraging student engagement by providing a customized educational experience.
Incorporating any technology or online tools into your classes can be daunting. No matter how intuitive the tool, it will require some practice, and it’ll probably make your classes less efficient for the first few times you try it. To make it less intimidating, start small, incorporating the tech tools into one or two lessons that are well within your comfort zone, and expand out from there.
The biggest distraction for middle and high school students is social media. Students are constantly receiving notifications, and if they’re bored by your lecture (which they won’t be if you’re using the strategies above!), they’ll feel no qualms about spending the whole class on their phones.
Teachers often fall into the trap of guilting students into paying attention by calling them out on phone use or confiscating their phones. This not only doesn’t work, it also harms student engagement in the long term by increasing classroom tension. Instead, ask students to put their phones on silent and place them face down in the center of the table group or at the front of their desk. This way, it becomes very obvious when a student reaches for his or her phone, and no one will be hiding phones to test your limits.
5: Physical activity
Have you students get up and move around a few times during the class. You could lead some stretching, do some yoga, or if that sounds too time consuming, simply have your students take a lap around the classroom or switch seats.
If your class structure is already divided between notes time and practice time, have students re-arrange their seating when you switch activities. Even having students come up to the board to write down their work makes a difference. It doesn’t take any extra time, and studies have shown that incorporating movement won’t only improve student focus, but will actually boost their performance.