It is that time of year again! Whether you have seniors thinking about graduation, seventh graders looking out the window, or college students ready for summer break, it is spring—one of the hardest times of year to keep students engaged.
How to Maintain Student Engagement
Engagement is one of my favorite subjects to study. When students are engaged there is deeper learning, better management, and overall a better teaching and learning experience for everyone. This time of year, engagement is key! How do we keep our students, nevertheless ourselves, from staring out the window and dreaming about summer vacation?
Luckily there is a ton of research available to help teachers keep students engaged year round, but especially during the spring.
Lets start with the body. According to Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers from Edutopia, exercise is like “Miracle Gro for the brain.” They claim that exercise has a physiological and developmental impact on the brain. “Studies suggest that regular physical activity supports healthy child development by improving memory, concentration and positive outlook. For example, researchers found that children who had an opportunity to run 15-45 minutes before class were less distracted and more attentive to schoolwork. These positive effects lasted two to four hours after their workouts (Conyers and Wilson 2014)”.
So, how do we engage student’s minds with physical activity while in the classroom? One tip is for teachers to engage the senses. For example, make sure that there are enough content related images around the room so that your students don’t have to look outside or use manipulatives at every opportunity. Another suggestion is to develop learning activities that are responsive to a variety of learning styles including kinesthetic learners.
Chunk learning is another effective way to ensure your students are attentive and engaged in the learning and assessment activities. Generally, students have an attention span that is limited to their age plus five additional minutes. Therefore, if you are teaching tenth grade, chunk your learning activities into 20 minute segments, if you have third graders you will have to reduce the number to 13-14 minutes.
Lastly, teach your students how to be “drivers of their own brains.” Actively teach your students cognitive and metagcognitive strategies that they can use to enhance and improve their learning. Be responsive to your students’ interests and allow them to make choices in their learning. If we want to develop adults who can think outside of the box we have to provide those opportunities for our students. Jessica Bianculli discusses this in her post, “Beyond Straight A’s: Identifying the Astrophysicist in Your Classroom.”
If teachers make learning fun, and students learn how to become the drivers of their own brain, the opportunities for engaged learning are endless—regardless of the time of year! When I sit down to lesson plan I try to remember that an engaged class is a well behaved class. As educators, we are responsible for facilitating engaging opportunities for our students to become intrinsically motivated learners using their mind, body, and enthusiasm!
Image courtesy of Student Engagement Trust: www.studentengagementtrust.org/engagementModel/