One of our biggest challenges as educators for the 2020/2021 school year will be finding ways to increase and maintain student engagement. Regardless of which learning model students are in, this will be a hefty task, but we can do it!
All students should have active opportunities to engage in learning. Engagement refers to the level of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion students possess, which extends motivation towards learning. Student engagement requires active- behavior, even in passive situations, such as a lecture or directed teaching. Active engagement could include listening, taking notes, asking questions, reading, collaborating, creating, playing, and exploring.
Here are 10 ways to keep students engaged during these strange and uncertain times.
- Bring energy. Creating exciting digital lessons for all kinds of learners can be exhausting. (Check out WideOpenSchool.org for great resources.) It’s all right for students to see you as a real person, but when it’s time for teaching, smile wide, and show off your superpowers.
- Make a personal connection with a phone call. “Hi, Trinity, it’s your teacher! How are you? I noticed you were involved in the lesson yesterday. What else would you like to learn about?”. Nothing tells a student that you are there for them, like a phone call. Just say hello or encourage them to share what is going on in their life. This will help you get to know the student, and it will help spark interest in future lesson-planning. For those students who are doing well, the phone call will let the student know that he/shehas your support. For a student who might be falling behind, a phone call may provide insight. You may be able to help a student get organized by creating a checklist together. Follow up with phone calls and emails to parents. During these difficult times, keep the lines of communication open so parents will feel like part of the school community.
- Create a spirit week. Work with colleagues to create an exciting schoolwide event. Enlist the help of students to plan virtual activities—such as a talent show, spelling bee, fitness challenge, storytelling contest, or reading race. During spirit week, involve as many students as possible. Film highlights and share with the school community.
- Create a buddy system. Have students check in with each other daily. Assign conversation topics, while providing a built-in social outlet.
- Set aside the first five minutes for fun. Tell students stories, jokes, solve riddles, maybe even share a favorite recipe. Time spent building a rapport with the students is more important than ever before. Also, give students a chance to talk to each other. Remember, fully remote students may not have many opportunities to talk to peers during the school day.
- Join the Bitmoji movement. While some teachers may find emojis a distraction, many teachers are embracing them because they help some younger students stay engaged. To create a virtual classroom with a mini-you avatar, download the app (for iPhone and Android).
- Take some time to move it. Ring a bell, pound a drum, or blow a whistle to indicate that it is time for you and your class to get up and move. Play music and invite the class to dance for the duration of a song. Consider letting each student pick a daily song to dance to.
- Play games. Give each student a number. Then ask each student to email you two fun facts about himself/herself. Then make a list of all the fun facts in one shared document. As you review it together, the class can guess which fact belongs to which student. Use this as a way for students to express themselves.
- Be inspired by the CoronaCant Campaign. Created by a Florida high school teacher, students can participate in light-hearted challenges that respond to the statement, “Corona can’t stop me from. . . .” This will provide you with a platform for talking to students about the pandemic, and it will help put a much-needed positive spin on things.
- Take meaningful and calming breaks. Every so often when you or your students need to just chill, watch the elephants as they congregate in their home at the San Diego zoo. This site provides views of lovely elephants in their natural element. www.sdzsafaripark.org/elephant-cam#
Engagement Includes the 5 C’s of learning – Content, Competition, Collaboration, Creation, and Choice.
Content–robust topics for students to dive deep and explore in all areas. Teachers facilitate content-aligning curriculum content with state and national standards that are relevant to students’ lives.
Friendly competition–supports students to attain surface-level knowledge and provide a foundation to dig deeper. This can be achieved through games and hands-on activities.
Collaboration – members of the school community or classroom work together towards a common goal. This builds interdependence, classroom, and school community.
Creation – students independently or collaboratively, apply content knowledge through unique ways to explore, learn, and share what they know.
Choice – the ultimate engagement occurs when students make choices about what and how they learn.
Engagement enhances personality, brain development, and achievement. It supports relationships with peers and teachers. If you notice a decrease in your child’s engagement, contact your child’s school for more support.