Monday, May 1, 2017

Teacher Tips for Student Engagement

Student engagement is one of the buzz words that teachers hear more and more of every single day, as we should. If our students are not engaged in the learning process, can we be sure they are learning the material we are trying to teach them? Student engagement doesn't have to always be big, flashy lessons. Engagement just means you are trying something different than you've done before and that the students are enjoying the way you are delivering the material. Novel idea, right?

One easy way that just about EVERY teacher can increase student engagement is to create props around their classroom. Our fourth graders recently finished a unit on measurement. We created a map around the classroom with trees and "pit stops" that students had to stop and measure different items. This was super easy to do and was very cost efficient. 

I used butcher paper from the teacher supply room the create a tree and a road map. The road map went around the classroom and I moved the students desks in the middle of the room. This was super easy to do! The students were shocked to walk in and see the room "transformed" into a road trip adventure! The magic of butcher paper and the movement of desks! We had another station where the students measured suit cases. 

That brings me to my next tip! One of the stations was to measure the sleeping bags. The students had to convert the measurement to both inches and feet. 

Another easy tip to raise engagement is to use a different type of materials for reading. For the same lesson, we used brochures that were free from the local travel station. I did a text feature station and added laser pointers that were a Dollar Tree find! The students had to find the text feature with the laser pointer. Some might thing, Ashley, that sounds like a classroom management nightmare! One might think, however, set your expectations and clearly state how the laser pointers are used. I did this with two classes and only took one laser pointer away. So if a student is using it incorrectly and you lay out the expectations, take it away if they break the rules. 

Another great way to increase student engagement is to put the worksheets a way and have students work out real world math problems on their desk using expo markers and counting chips.The colored chips really bring math to life for the students. Students are able to make connections and develop a deeper understanding for more difficult concepts such as multiplication and division.   In this activity, students had to practice dividing and determining if there was a remainder. While I was monitoring the students thinking, I was asking questions like "What if the problem was dividing people or a car, can you cut those in half?". I wanted my student to practice the basic skill of division, however, I wanted them to begin to think about interpreting the remainder and what it means. Even though I wasn't using a "workbook" to teach it, they still had to have a paper- pencil based assessment and these are the type of word problems we would eventually get to. I didn't want them to waste any time and wanted to have my students to start to think about these steps as soon as they started working with remainders. 

Once we moved past division, later in the year we moved into decimals, I used my handy expo markers AGAIN! In a different format though. This time, I used coins to show the students how they already used decimals in their everyday life. I wanted my students to connect to the fact that they could already apply this skill prior to the teaching, this is known as activating prior knowledge. Again, my students pulled out their expo markers and because I was using different manipulatives and in a different way, the students were still engaged in the process. Changing the way you teach in just the simplest manner can and will increase your students engagement! 

Fractions are such a difficult concept for students to grasp. Moving to a different area that students are not normally at, adding the white board, fraction bars,  and expo markers gives this student another chance to practice this skill. Students who are used to a workbook based model of instruction do well with this at the beginning of the year. This is an easy step to increase engagement at the beginning of the year. We also use our "Spin A Fraction" Mats to help us practice the skills using a hands on method. The students also love to use task cards

The last tip to increase student engagement is to transform your old board games! Students LOVE using these! In the photo below, I used a Jenga game for math facts. Another way I've used Jenga is for sight words! Students love the twist to the game and the game is so inexpensive. All you need is a label marker or dot labels and a sharpie!


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  1. Follower number 4,550! Yay!

  2. "Engagement just means you are trying something different than you've done before and that the students are enjoying the way you are delivering the material." Such a great statement. I love your ideas for engagement as well!


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