Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Engaging Your Students

5 Ways to Keep Your Students Engaged

Sometimes during the year my kids start to get into a rut with their work. It can be a struggle to keep them engaged. Here are my top 5 ways to keep students engaged with their work. 

#1 Provide choices
Kids love choosing what to do. I like to mix up the types of choices I give students. Sometimes I give them a choice in which activities to do. Other times I give them a choice in assessments. The variation keeps it from getting old and they love choosing what to do!

Check out this blog post on a geometry activity where the kids had choice in their activities:
Lines Task Cards

#2 Differentiate the work
My kids are currently working on a large unit over the 4 operations. I used a pre-test to determine what skills the kids already knew how to do. I found a huge range in ability. Some kids still struggled with 3rd grade skills while others (very few) had already mastered 5th grade skills. Yikes! So I went out of my comfort zone and have had kids working on different skills - focusing only on what they don't know how to do. It was a bit of a planning nightmare up front, but the rewards have been worth it. I love hearing from a student "this is what I've been wanting to learn how to do!". My high kids are able to be challenged while my low babies don't get quite as frustrated.

I'll be writing a post later about how I put this all together. 

#3 Make your delivery exciting
Sometimes I find our curriculum boring. I just have a hard time getting excited about certain topics. When this shows to the kids, they naturally have a hard time engaging in the work. When I present a lesson or a skill in a manner that shows the kids I love the topic - guess what - they love it too! (This probably only works in elementary school when they still think I'm cool...)

So when I'm planning a unit that I know can be extra challenging or boring, I try to plan fun activities or, at the very least, I act like I absolutely love that topic. My excitement typically rubs off on many of my students.

#4 Incorporate pop culture/students' interests
I read a blog post recently where a teacher had her kids "grade" a celebrity's work. I loved this idea and copied it in my classroom. My girls are all huge Taylor Swift fans (who isn't??). So during our unit on multiplication one of their assignments was to grade "Taylor Swift's multiplication page". They were all so excited to check her work. Not only did this get them multiplying, but they also had to apply some higher level thinking to find the mistakes.

#5 Use social media as a motivating factor
I recently heard a statement at a workshop that social media is the new refrigerator. Posting good work on the fridge at home is no longer enough - they want feedback from a global audience. I use this to my advantage by selecting high quality work to post on twitter or share online. This can be a great motivator for some students.

How do you keep your kids engaged as the year goes on?