In a world full of distraction, engaging student interest can be very challenging. But it’s crucial to have some tools in your figurative toolbox that you can use to capture and cultivate classroom engagement.
Teacher Briana Richardson of @honestteachervibes has captivated the interest of more than a million TikTok followers. This summer, she joined Quizlet’s Unconference to give her thoughts on how to boost classroom engagement. Here’s what she had to share with us:
Connect learning to the real world
To overcome student apathy, show your students that what they’re learning is relevant to their life beyond school. Answer the question, “When am I going to use this?”
You can do that by using real-life anecdotes from outside the classroom to root your teaching in the real world. For example, a student who plans to join a family roofing business after graduation will need to understand how to read a contract to avoid being taken advantage of.
More ways to connect
- Get current. Incorporating current affairs into the classroom ups the interest factor of a lesson. Students want to talk about what’s happening around them. If the subject is relevant and appropriate, Briana recommends working it into a lesson so they can have a conversation about it.
- Use technology. Phones and other technologies are integral tools in the workplace. Briana believes there’s a time and a place for phone use in the classroom. When her students can use their phones to access Quizlet or other educational apps, their engagement level increases tremendously.
- Encourage group work. When students enter the workforce, they’ll have to know how to work in teams. It’s also important for students to practice collaborating with people they don’t get along with. When they work in a group, students practice putting their ideas into words and hearing different perspectives.
Capture student interest
It’s a fact that students will be more engaged when they are interested in a lesson. As a teacher, you need to learn what is important to them. Once you have established a few interests, use those to engage them. Briana has incorporated Fortnite in her lessons, and allowed her students to debate topics like school uniforms and cell phone usage in school.
Briana’s students love to have choices. This makes them feel like they have a say in their education.
One way she does this is by using the “PIG” strategy. In this strategy, she allows them to decide whether they will work with a partner, individually, or in a group.
The strategy comes with a caveat: If you misbehave, you’re going back to your seat. Her students know the consequences, so they monitor each other’s behavior.
Other choices you can offer
- Flexible seating. During independent reading time, Briana’s students can choose where to sit. This might be under a desk, in the corner, lying on the floor, next to a friend, or even in a fort built out of testing dividers. This helps make the classroom feel welcoming and peaceful, an environment conducive to learning and creativity.
- Choice of reading material. Briana’s students can choose their own books during independent reading. Allowing them to choose shifts them from the role of passive consumer to that of active learner.
Getting students moving shakes off the fog and helps them remember things better. But pulling kids out of their seats in the classroom can be a recipe for chaos. Here are a few ways to get active in a productive way.
- Have students come to the front for whiteboard work.
- Rotate students through different stations around the room.
- Have students move from one side of the room to another to indicate their opinion on an issue.
- Create a gallery walk: Put up images and let them walk around and take notes.
- Think-pair-share. Ask a question and have students think of their answer, find a partner to pair with, and share their thoughts.
- Turn and talk. Have students pick an answer and then turn and talk to the person sitting next to them. This is a good option when you have students you don’t want out of their seats.
- Four corners. For multiple choice questions, designate the four corners of the room as A, B, C and D. Then ask a question and have students go to the corner that corresponds to their answer.
These are just a few ways you can engage your students in the classroom. So pick a new-to-you strategy to try this year and see how it works. Let us know in the comments!
This information is from a session of Quizlet’s 2021 Unconference, a free professional development opportunity for teachers. This year’s Unconference was all about empowering teachers to look to the future with confidence. If you missed it, you can view this session’s recording [here]().