5 Easy Ways To Engage Students In Learning
by Rachelle Dene Poth
As a teacher, I am always looking out for new ideas, tools, and innovative methods to Engage Students In Learning.
Here are five ideas that I tried during the past few weeks as I sought different ways to have students connect, collaborate, and create more in the classroom. These have also benefitted the peer relationships and been a different way of reviewing content or assessing skills. These ideas can be no-tech or further developed by asking the students for some ideas.
5 Easy Ways To Engage Students In Learning
1. Use Team-Building Games & Ice Breakers!
Whether you’re discussing team-building games for critical thinking or team-building games for middle and high school students, collaboration and tone are key factors for student engagement.
Consider ice-breakers, for example. There are so many different ways to get students involved in icebreakers, whether by using paper and pencil or even with digital tools. By involving them as people above involving them as students, a new kind of climate is created.
One example? Using tools like Buncee, Piktochart or Canva students can come up with four statements about themselves to share with classmates. These can be in the form of three truths and a lie, as a way to help students learn about their peers and for the teacher to learn about the students.
It is beneficial for making connections with one another, finding things in common, but also to appreciate the different perspectives and backgrounds students bring into the classroom.
This can also be a great way to enhance communication and comfort in the classroom and also, if technology is used, to start teaching students alternative ways to present information.
2. Learn one way, review another.
And one way to do so is to review through a strategy called ‘Categories.’
Here’s how it works: Create a template with four or five different categories related to the content area and grade level being taught. After deciding on categories, select five or six letters of the alphabet, or even try using numbers, and instruct the students to come up with a relevant word, topic, or even a question that is connected to each category.
Students can then share what their group came up with. It can be a lot of fun and this type of activity will promote communication between peers while providing an opportunity for collaboration as well. It will serve as a different, more authentic way for the students to review, be creative, and brainstorm new ideas together.
3. Make it more visual.
Students need different ways to practice the content and one way that helps some learners is through visual learning. Students can use vocabulary, verbs, or any content material to generate word art. Students can create a word cloud using paper and marker or try using a digital tool like WordCloud or other similar word cloud generators available.
After the word clouds are created, teachers can build on the learning potential by having students post their work in the classroom, having a gallery walk where other groups can discuss the terms, brainstorm new ideas, define or translate them (if a foreign language) and increase the authentic learning materials in the classroom.
4. Just add music.
Students are always asking to listen to their music while they work, and often I play music as they enter my classroom. A simple search on YouTube returns thousands of songs, specific to languages, grammar concepts, and much more.
There have been many Spanish songs used in our class that have been quite helpful for students to remember certain grammar constructions, so having students create their own song seemed like a good idea.
Not specific to foreign language classrooms, students can create rhymes with any content, for example, make up their own song using vocabulary, names of famous historical figures, geographical information, story characters, or anything related to the content area being studied.
Students may find this opportunity is a much more meaningful and authentic way to practice and ultimately retain the content. Students can share their creations with classmates, either by performing live in class and projecting their lyrics on the smartboard or through copies or record their song, using tools like Flipgrid in the classroom.
Classmates can also be encouraged to provide feedback or even record their own responses.
5. Make it a game.
Having students play games is always a fun way to learn and review the material, but placing students in the position to create the games, takes it to another level. We move students from consumers to creators and provide opportunities for them to engage in a more authentic and personalized learning experience.
It adds to the resources available and students are so creative, that the types of games they create will add a variety of helpful resources for all students in the class. There are many options and students can decide to make up their own unique game using paper and any materials they decide on or create one through one of the digital tools like Kahoot, Quizlet or Quizizz or Triventy.
Students will experience more authentic learning and work on their skills of creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking when they select the vocabulary to use and decide on how to design their game.
The Big Idea: To Increase Opportunities For Students
Any of these activities present new opportunities for the students to collaborate, to work on their peer relationships, and to have a more authentic learning experience.
For educators, it increases the time available for acting as a facilitator in a student-centered classroom, which will open up the opportunity for more assessment of student learning and time to interact more with each of the students.
It can be risky trying some different methods in the classroom, but in order to keep students engaged and to move beyond the traditional classroom roles of teacher-driven learning to engage students in learning, we have to step out of doing what we have always done. It takes time to plan and we need to remember to reflect and also to ask students for feedback.
We need to offer diverse ways for students to become more curious in learning and also ways to engage more with the content and extend their learning. Be open with students by letting them know that these methods are a work in progress and be sure to express the ‘why’ behind trying these different methods.
Involve the students in the design of these activities and be open to their suggestions for improvements.