Use a variety of media and modalities
Many colleges and universities include information about this topic in their credentialing or Master’s programs because of its importance. Teachers today are competing with social media and video games. A media component to lessons can help keep students engaged. This may be images, audio, gifs, or even videos like this one about the earth from SchoolTube. This meets students where they are and can encourage them to develop a curiosity and love for learning. The use of modalities can range from students creating hand or body movements to remember vocabulary words in English Language Arts to students singing a song about the process of photosynthesis in Science (below). The different modalities are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Auditory learning occurs when an individual hears something and the brain processes that information. Visual learning happens when a learner sees a message and the brain methodically organizes what it has learned. Kinesthetic learning is the process of movement turning into knowledge. Applying more than one of these modalities at a time requires students to use more of their brains to engage in the task and increases the probability of retention of information. Many teachers regularly incorporate audio and visual information, however that kinesthetic piece can often be overlooked. This can be a helpful tool for teachers, especially during the pandemic when students have less movement opportunities available. Some ideas for incorporating the kinesthetic modality in the classroom during the pandemic are having students stand up or sit down to check for understanding, creating a movement or series of movements to explain a concept, or developing a song and dance as a class for a topic or story.
Relate information to the students’ lives and interests
The brain does not retain information if it is not relevant. Giving context to knowledge increases its importance in all of the messages the brain processes at one time. This increases buy-in for students, and often, their families. There needs to be a purpose behind what they are learning, and why they are learning it, for a class or topic to be truly engaging. Not everything is going to be the most engaging thing that you have taught, however, there may be spins that you can put on topics to relate them to students’ interests. For example, watch this video (below) about adding decimals from SchoolTube and then practice with your students. Focus on money and the real-world application of this skill. You can even create word problems including your students and their interests in things like celebrities or athletes, hobbies, music, movies, or tv shows. Slight adjustments to relate lessons to students’ lives and interests can make a huge difference in their willingness to invest attention and engagement into a lesson.
Make formative assessment fun
One key piece of effective teaching is formatively assessing students as lessons and units progress. However, if students are not engaged in a lesson or activity, often that data is not received or is only partial. Making formative assessments fun and engaging can help drive and inform your teaching. This way you can maximize the time you have in the classroom and help your students in the best way possible. Some fun online options for digital formative assessments are Kahoot!, Quizizz, PearDeck, Padlet, and Nearpod. Ideas that do not use technology include: students writing or drawing responses on sticky notes that will be put on a class poster, four corners (see below for further explanation and pandemic option), and whiteboards or pieces of paper in sheet protectors. Four corners is typically an activity that involves labeling the different corners of your classroom, asking a question, and assigning different answers to each corner of the room. Students are given a set amount of time to figure out which corner is the correct answer and physically move to that corner of the room. However, this is not always feasible based on the physical size and layout of classrooms and current pandemic conditions. Instead of moving, students can point to the corner of the room that represents the correct answer. Another option is to create a movement for each corner or answer. Students can do that movement when it is time to reveal their guesses.
Engaging students helps increase learning and retention of information. Try to relate information to their lives and interests, make formative assessments fun, and use a variety of media and modalities to improve engagement and focus in the classroom.
tips for classroom engagement, engagement in the classroom, student engagement, engaging students, getting students engaged, how to engage students, engagement, tips for student engagement, how to grab students attention, powerful strategies to engage students, how to keep students engaged, teaching strategies to engage students