Teachers, student engagement is the epitome of teaching. If your students are engaged, then you are a teacher who has succeeded in classroom discipline, classroom management, and effective teaching. You should also know that a quiet class is not necessarily a class of students who are learning. Quiet students are not engaged. Keep them talking. Here are a few tips for teachers to get their students engaged.
First and foremost, you must realize that a quiet student is not always an engaged student. In fact, if keeping your students quiet is your goal as a teacher, you have chosen the wrong profession. An active classroom is buzzing with action. The action of students actively engaged in the learning process. As teachers, watching and listening to your students engaged in some useful learning activity is one of the joys of teaching. This in no way means that there is chaos in the classroom. Your classroom discipline and classroom management MUST be mastered before any student engagement takes place.
Forget solo work except in rare case. Teachers, you have got to fight the urge to give a silent reading assignment and answer questions at the end of a chapter on paper. Terrible teaching and absolutely no learning. Assigned reading should be done outside of the classroom. Teachers eat up valuable learning time by having students silently read the next chapter. (Note, this is not in reference to reading books for pleasure in school.) Solo work is what is done as a sponge activity at the beginning of class, and perhaps the end of class.
You as the teacher need to be teaching the material. Why do we have teachers if anything can be found in a book? Teachers, you have got to take an active role in presenting the material. Teachers need to introduce and summarize the material in a way that gets responses from their students. Discuss the topics. Ask your students questions. Ask your students to ask you questions. You, the teacher, are a facilitator. Teachers lead the discovery. Assign groups to read sections together and present their findings and opinions to the class. Come up with open-ended questions. Not mundane fact checking at the end of each chapter.
Don’t show movies. Movies are the bane of teaching. Instead, if you insist on movies, show short video clips and discuss them. If you are a teacher who shows movies, you are a teacher who is not teaching. Showing movies is another mode of lazy teaching. Oh movies will entertain, but teachers are not in the business to entertain. They are teachers.
This does not mean teaching and learning cannot be fun. That is a must. But if teachers have a habit of showing movies, what message does that send to your students? Think about it. Add to this the fact that it can be difficult to monitor your students during movie time.
A teaching article cannot possibly show you how to engage your students. Sit in and watch an experienced teacher. You will pick up some very good teaching tips. If you are a new teacher, you have probably figured out that not much you learned in teacher education classes is useful for the real world. It is almost on the job training. Nothing in this world is better for teachers than observing other successful teachers. If you are a successful teacher, you need to invite newer teachers to observe your teaching.
Okay, but I need to be up at the front of the room teaching while my students watch me teach! Fair enough. You can still get them engaged. Pause often to reflect, query, elicit, and coax responses and exchanges with your students. Don’t stand in one place. Wander around the room, up and down the aisles, around the students’ desks. Teachers wandering and standing by students is a great way to maintain classroom discipline as well. Call your students by name. This is perfect for math teachers. After each concept, assign a problem to be worked out and wander around the classroom. Encourage students to ask questions and compare answers with their neighbors. YES! Get them moving and talking!
Here’s another tip for math teachers. (Yes you can readily modify it for other subjects.) How much space do you have at the board? Call up as many students that fit. Have them all work on the same problem at the same time on the board.
That is, all students will be doing the same problem, but working on it in their own space. I have called up five students at the same time. It may sound strange to assign the same problem. But what they do is look to their right and left the student next to them if they are stuck.
I have seen all five engaged at the same time. Any teacher for any subject can modify this. Five students working together on the same problem is ten times better than you explaining the problem for the umpteenth time. Please note. This is not five students turning in one paper. Insist upon individual papers. Yes this does not necessarily eliminate the lazy student, but it will help to quell the complaints.
Keeping your students engaged in the learning process is hard work. It takes more planning than just a regular lecture. Teachers have felt that a drawback to gearing their classrooms to more engaging activities leaves less time for the mandated curriculum. Not true. It is just incorporated differently. Take some workshops for teachers on engaging students. Teachers need to decide what kind of classroom they want. Do you want to talk for 50 minutes and have a room full of sleeping students? Or worse yet, a room full of bored, antsy students? Will you, as a teacher, become an actual teacher or a babysitter?
If you start making your classroom an engaging experience for your students on day one, the rest will be easier. Your students will know that your classroom is not a class to goof off in, sleep, or fool around. It is a classroom that demands and expects work!