While we all want our students active and excited about the classroom, there are some specific student engagement best practices to consider when crafting your lessons. To be fair though, it’s not just within the actual lesson plan that you would focus on these student engagement best practices; they are an all-encompassing “way of life” culture for your classroom to both function and thrive.
Why are student engagement best practices so important today?
Today, education is the key to success. This means that your students have a lot of pressure on their shoulders, and many of them aren’t going to be able to handle it as well as others. The important thing for you as a teacher is not only making sure they learn the material but how they go about presenting themselves as leaders in the classroom and as a future workforce. This can be done by incorporating student engagement best practices into your lesson plans.
You have to remember that you are going up against every other teacher in the area, not just those at your school. When you spend time trying to build a relationship with your students and show them how much you care about their well-being, they will see your efforts and be more willing to learn from you.
These best practices aren’t difficult but can make a big difference in your classroom and ultimately, to the lives of those around you. We are dealing with people in the classroom and we need to make sure we are meeting their educational needs where they lay. This can be terribly overwhelming without a firm plan in place to tackle this efficiently.
By using these student engagement best practices, you can be assured that your students are going to get a well-rounded education and have the opportunity to learn from you. Whether they grasp everything or even nothing at all, it’s important to show them where their efforts can take them in life. This isn’t something that is typically done so being the one to break the cycle is a great feeling.
It’s worth noting that student engagement best practices can range from having a strong relationship with your students to making sure they understand what is expected of them before the school day begins. Sometimes, it will be simple things like reviewing new material during lunch or doing a quick writing assignment before class starts that will make the biggest difference. Keep trying different things and don’t be afraid to adjust your lesson plan as you see fit.
It really all comes down to giving it 110%, so here are some student engagement best practices you can employ to encourage student success:
Model the behavior
As with anything, the best way to teach students how to conduct themselves is by exhibiting that exact same behavior yourself. Be on time every day, stick around until the end of class ready and willing to answer any and all student questions, and walk through each and every assignment with them.
This doesn’t mean your classroom will turn into a year-long game of “Follow the Leader”; it means that our children watch adults learn the best practices for their behavior, effort, and functionality in society. Modeling the behavior we wish to see in our children will bring about better results than calling them out on their mistakes, and can work as a much more effective and immediate deterrent.
Questioning vs. Lecturing: take a side!
Nothing turns students off quite like endless questions that basically equate to “Just read this chapter”. As the teacher, you have got to be an active participant in those classroom discussions, so put your lesson plan away and engage with them. A good way to test the waters is by asking questions you don’t know the answer to, so keep an open mind and always try to see it from their perspective.
Sometimes it takes us thinking outside the box a bit, but it is always possible to ask very thought-provoking questions in any subject area with the right preparation.
Know your audience
Just like any other business or organization, student engagement best practices begin with knowing who you are working with. Watch them in the halls, track their academic progress, and don’t forget to smile when you see them! It is so helpful to take a step back in a bit of an “out of body” experience to see how your students act (or react) in your classroom. Take your own emotions out of the equation and you will come up with some really stellar data to help mold your classroom culture moving forward.
Get to know the parents, too. What are their views? Their values? Their hopes and dreams for their child? You can learn a lot by simply popping in at open house events or visiting with them during conferences. No one knows your students better than you do, but knowing what other people want out of this experience will help you make the most of your influence (and it helps connect those missing pieces to the puzzle).
Change takes time, so be prepared to bet on the long term! Be patient as you rise above the status quo and watch as your students begin to notice a difference in their peers and school community. These little changes can have huge impacts, both now and down the road. Your investment now will pay dividends for years to come…
Make it fun!
Yes, I know you have been told a million times about how “fun” is not an educational word when talking about curriculum. But again, when your goal is to keep your students active and excited about the classroom, fun is not a four-letter word.
Mix up your lesson plan to include some physical activity, perhaps a motivational quote from that awesome movie you watched over break or a funny scene from TV when studying an influential piece of literature. The great thing about learning is the joy it brings when students are able to find the connections between it and their lives.
Know your “whys”
Whether it’s a love of teaching, student engagement best practices, or wanting to help others develop into lifelong learners, every lesson plan should have its own “why”. It might be hard or tedious at times, but with that sense of purpose in mind, you can keep pushing through.
Grading scale: 0-21!
Finally, your grading scale should reflect the amount of effort put forth by each student. This doesn’t mean to go easy on them, however; it means that there will be no surprises come semester or quarterly grades time if they receive an “A” for simply showing up. This way, you can focus on each student as an individual and make sure they are truly grasping the material which best meets their needs.
Don’t forget about me!
Whether it’s a quick check-in or a lunch invite, remember that getting to know your students personally is much more effective than in a classroom setting. Keep an open-door policy and always find a way to reach out to your students outside of the school day.
Your mission as a teacher is not only to engage with your students but to develop them into responsible, upstanding members of society who can succeed in any facet of life they choose. These student engagement best practices are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are a great starting point to get your students up off the couch and actively engaged in their own learning.
How can you apply student engagement best practices?
Student engagement best practices are usually discussed in the context of education, but they don’t have to be limited to that. I have seen students engage with each other by playing games, passing notes or just talking to each other during lunch or outside of class time.
The thing about engaging your students is that it doesn’t always have to take place during class time. You can do this by having your students work on projects outside of the school day or letting them play games that go along with what you are teaching in class to help reinforce the material.
The best part about having these ideas is that they can be implemented at any time and in just about any place. It doesn’t have to take a lot of money or planning, but instead an open mind and willingness to engage with your students on their level. This is the one thing that all teachers should keep in mind as they try and implement student engagement best practices.
In my teaching career, I have seen the results of good student engagement versus bad student engagement on both sides of the spectrum. I know how powerful it can be when students are engaged in what they are learning, which is why it’s so important for teachers to find new ways to engage with their students.
There is no end-all-be-all rule book for teaching, as this job is as dynamic as it gets. The important thing is that we continue adjusting our methods and finding ways to make life better for our students. Whether you are looking for student engagement best practices to begin with, or want to take what you have already started and expanded on it, this is something that can be done across the board.
As teachers, we are tasked with making sure our students grow to their fullest potential. This isn’t always going to come in the form of success within the classroom. It’s up to you as the educator to make sure that your students know where they can go in life and how they can get there. A lot of times, this will come from within the classroom but it doesn’t have to be like that every time.
Student engagement best practices are not something we learn overnight and usually take some trial and error before we get everything down pat. Be willing to adjust your methods and take the time to get to know your students on an individual level. This is how you can ensure that they are getting the best education possible, which will go a long way in this ever-changing world.
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