As teachers, we are always trying to find ways to help ourselves out in the classroom, whether that is making something just a little bit easier or a way to connect with our students just a little bit more. One example that I often have teachers asking me if I can help them with is by finding good student engagement tools to use. Whether you are looking for just a couple or an entire collection of tools, I have put together 10 student engagement tools that offer great ways to engage your students in any subject.
There are many different ways to use student engagement tools like these, but the main idea is that they help students become more actively involved in your lesson. They can be used as independent work for early finishers (and ensure that there are no distractions), give formative assessments throughout your lesson, or even act as a creative way to end or transition into a topic.
Keep in mind that student engagement tools are not one-size-fits-all, but can definitely be adapted to the students in your classroom.
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Sticky notes are great student engagement tools for getting them to think about their role in society and the changes that they want to see made. This is great for goal setting or broader spectrum ideas to get the kids thinkings. While these do not necessarily have to act as student engagement tools directly, it is a perfect way to get your student’s wheels turning.
I like using sticky notes at the beginning of my social studies classes (such as Government/Civics) to start off the year. I give each student sticky notes and they are allowed to write one thing that they want to see changed in the world (could be specific like more funding for education or general like better transportation). After they have written their thought, I ask them to stick it somewhere around the room with a date on it of when they would like to see the changes happen.
This is a great way for students to engage with what is being taught in class, incorporate their thoughts on society and share actively their vision of the future with others.
Similar to sticky notes, sticky stars are student engagement tools that allow students to engage with different topics at an appropriate level. This can be used as a formative assessment or simple center activity to engage and assess key concepts.
The idea behind this tool is to give students an opportunity to show how much they learned about a topic. At the beginning of class you tell your students that there are five topics covered in today’s lesson and for each topic, they will get a sticky star. For each topic, they get the star, which means that they learned something.
You can then decide how to bring this together at the end of the lesson. It can be an assessment (like a test) for you to decide how well they retained the information or it can be part of their daily grade in terms of participation, etc.
“I Have, Who Has?”
This is a great way to engage your students with one another outside of you giving instruction. Instead of simply listening to the person that you call on or speaking when it is your turn, students need to listen for their cue card and make sure they are ready for their line.
These student engagement tools can be used in similar ways as sticky stars or they can simply be used like “Simon Says” to get the students moving and participating. The key is determining what will make your particular students get engaged with the concept (and keep in mind, what might work for one class dynamic might not work for another. Keep trying until you find what sticks and then run with it.)
Quizizz is a site that allows you to create your own questions or choose from their free set, which starts out through an interactive story that gets progressively more difficult as you go along. You can then send these questions straight from your account to your students so they have a “game” to play when they log in.
This is a great way option for student engagement tools to get students engaged in the lesson and also assess them on key components at the same time. It makes assessment fun which can be essential when trying to engage your student with learning!
This is another site that allows you to create your own game or choose from their free sets of student engagement tools. The difference between Kahoot and Quizizz is that you do not need your students to log in ahead of time which can be beneficial if they are on a shared computer where logging in might be difficult. As the creator, the only downside is that once you start the game, you can’t pause it mid-way. Once started, everyone plays.
This site has many uses beyond getting students thinking or engaged with concepts as student engagement tools. This is an easy way to assess your students on key components of what you are teaching without having to make it obvious by asking them questions directly.
I always liked that students could access it from their cell phones (I always used a technology survey at the beginning of the school year to know if this was a tangible option), so having a full class set of technology wasn’t necessary.
This is a simple tool, but one that requires some strategy ahead of time to get the most out of it. Google forms are free and allow you to create multiple-choice, true/false, or even essay questions. What makes this so useful for teachers? It allows them to assess their students at the end of class-based not time-based. Also, because it is Google Forms, you can go back and look at the data that was collected without much effort.
This is a great way to get students thinking before, during, or after class. The only downside here is that there isn’t an easy way for students to grade their own learning (this would simply be another self-grading option for you to look at) so it might be a little more time-consuming for your editing side.
This is a free site that has both mobile apps and online tools that students can use to study any number of concepts. The key with Quizlet is that students are able to learn at their own pace, but also play against one another, making it a great option in this list of student engagement tools. I used this tool through an interactive whiteboard during classtime where the board was set up as a “game” so that students would want to come up, play it as a class, and even try to beat one another’s scores.
This is a great way to get students engaged in the lesson and assess them on key elements at the same time without having to create your own online tool from scratch!
Padlet is a free site that allows students to create a digital poster of their answers or thoughts through a variety of different media types, text being the main one. This is great for getting your class thinking on a particular topic and can be easily differentiated as well by asking some questions aloud while having other students answer them privately via their screen.
This is a great way to get students engaged and thinking about the concept at hand without having to create your own tool. This site allows you to create an “empty” pad (or multiple pads) where students can add images, text, links, or their own questions before sharing it with the rest of the class. This is another great way for students to think about the topic at hand before having to be assessed with it.
This can be an easy way to get students engaged in the lesson and assess them on key components, but like all “challenge boards” or “game boards,” you will need to make sure that your students are not able to use other students’ work or use this tool for cheating purposes specifically.
This is a free tool from Google that allows users to create drawings, flow charts, graphs, and even mind maps within the browser. What makes Google Drawings different from any other drawing or map-making tool is that it records all of the students’ work at the same time. This tool allows for group collaboration in an easy-to-use way and seems to be one of the best tools for getting both students and teachers engaged in creating something together.
This is a great way to get your class working together, thinking about the concept at hand, and sharing their ideas with each other all at the same time. It requires some creativity on your part so that you don’t just create a blank page, but instead encourage students to work together and think about the concept as they draw. It also allows you as the teacher to assess their learning at the same time.
This is another free tool that has both online and mobile apps available for download (desktop version is available for a fee). What makes Storyboard That great is that it allows students to create a story going from one scene to the next. They can add text, images, and even video footage all within the app itself, making it easy for them to think about what they want their final product to look like.
This is a great way for students to demonstrate their learning in a creative way that can be easily differentiated through choices of media use, images, text, or sound. It’s also an easy way to assess students on key components in the lesson.
This is another great tool for allowing students to work collaboratively, think about what they are doing in terms of topic and content at the same time, and allows you as a teacher to assess them on key components. The downside, however, is that it’s not the most user-friendly software for students who are not used to working with graphic design or digital media tools.
If you have any other great free student engagement tools that you use in your own classroom, below feel free to post them in the comments section! Feedback and ways to adapt what you do or how you use these tools are always welcome as well.
Student Engagement Tools and the 4 Keys
Determining what student engagement tools will work effectively with your students isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.