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10 Tips to Improve Classroom Engagement

Nov 23, 2022

As a teacher, there’s nothing worse than seeing your students’ focus slipping away as they become distracted by doodling, fidgeting and break time gossip.

Keeping your students engaged can seem like a difficult task but with the right kind of approach, it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Here are our top ten tips on improving engagement within the classroom.

1. Eliminate Dead Time

Taking the register, writing lesson objectives on the board and handing out worksheets are all opportunities for your students to lose focus. Once you’ve lost their focus, it can be incredibly difficult to get it back.

This is known as ‘dead time’- time during the lesson that isn’t spent learning.

In order to keep students engaged from the start to the end of the lesson, it’s crucial to eliminate dead time.

To do this, you can prepare a small task for your students to be getting on with while you take the register, such as a puzzle on the board or a worksheet to warm up with.

This is also a great way to either remind students of what they learnt in your last lesson or to prepare them for learning about a new topic.

For example, you could ask them to write down 5 key things they learnt from the previous lesson, or 3 things they already know about the topic you’re about to start.

If you do this consistently, your students will quickly learn to come in, sit down and get started with the task in front of them without prompting.

2. Implement Technology

When used effectively, technology has the potential to help students learn new concepts quickly and retain information better.

It’s now widely recognised that people have different learning styles and rates. In the past, traditional learning methods had just one model that all students had to learn by, allowing some students to advance while others fell behind.

Fortunately, technology facilitates the use of different learning styles, ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to learn and develop their skills in a way that works best for them.

In doing so, all students will have their needs met and be better engaged in the lesson.

Additionally, technology can facilitate collaboration, giving students greater opportunity to work with others and share their ideas through different modes.

Finally, technology can help to reduce time spent on administrative tasks, meaning less dead time.

3. Evaluate Your Lessons

One of the best ways to keep your students engaged is to learn when you lose engagement by evaluating your current lessons.

To do this, video your next lesson and watch it back to identify when it is that students are losing focus. Make a note of times when someone looks around, sighs and becomes distracted by something else. What were you doing during that time? What were other students doing?

Once you get to the bottom of this, you can work out how to avoid it in the future.

Of course, there will be instances when students are slightly less focused that are out of your control, such as right before lunch time, at the end of the day or before or in the build up to the next holidays.

However, this is the time to talk less and do more. Instead of boring the class by talking at them, get them involved in a task that gets them doing something hands-on, such as a scavenger hunt for clues to an answer to a question

4. Encourage Collaboration

Collaborative learning offers a number of benefits in the classroom, with today’s interactive and collaborative technology helping to get students out of their seats, interacting with classmates and participating in the learning material.

For example, if you ask students to read through a biology textbook and label the anatomy of a frog on their worksheet, there will be some students who disengage and don’t complete the work.

However, if you ask all students to come up and label the frog on the interactive whiteboard in teams, they have a much more fun challenge to participate in and know they must be focused on the task in order to avoid letting their team down.

5. Give Students Choices

Researchers have found that one of the most effective ways of persuading people to do something you want them to do is to give them options.

For example, instead of saying “I want you to write an essay about the Industrial Revolution”, say “You can choose whether to write an essay, make a video, create a podcast, deliver a presentation or create an informational leaflet about the Industrial Revolution”.

This gives students the choice over how they share their knowledge and can be a great way to tailor assignments to each student’s learning style.

Choice allows students to take control over their learning and ensures they aren’t passive learners, increasing engagement and making the lesson more meaningful.

6. Keep Early Finishers Busy

Some students naturally understand and work faster than others, meaning they often finish activities before everyone else in the class.

They may then feel like they can slack off because they have done all of their work, but this can lead to a loss of focus and they may even start to distract others who are still working.

In this instance, you may think it is a good idea to get them started on the next piece of work, however this means they are permanently ahead of everyone else.

A good solution to this is to always have extra worksheets on hand for early finishers. However, these activities should be more fun than the main task at hand, otherwise there isn't much motivation to complete them.

Brain teasers, puzzles and riddles work excellently here, keeping students focused without it feeling like a punishment for finishing early.

7. Don’t Talk at Your Students, Talk with Them

Nowadays, many classrooms have moved away from outdated, traditional styles of teaching, however some schools are set in their ways and expect students to sit quietly and take notes while the teacher talks away.

Anyone who has ever sat through a lesson like this will know how boring passive learning can be. Instead, to make your classroom more engaging, you should be providing your students with plenty of opportunities to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions on the topic they’re learning about.

By giving students a voice, they feel heard and can take ownership over their learning. Additionally, by opening the conversation up, one student may offer an idea that helps others to understand the topic better, in a way that the teacher hadn’t previously thought to explain it.

8. Make Learning Relevant

One of the most common questions asked in the classroom is “why do we have to learn this?” and “what’s the point?”. Students aren’t likely to be engaged in a topic that they don’t see as useful, or if it isn’t relevant to them.

If you look for ways to make your lessons more relevant for your students, engagement will increase.

You can do this, either by using examples of where students might use certain lessons later in life or by creating activities that incorporate your student’s interests, such as the latest game or TV show that they are currently loving.

9. Gather Student Feedback

One of the biggest reasons why students lose focus during a lesson is because the material isn’t resonating with them. In order to resolve this, you should request feedback from your students on what they find helpful about your lessons and how they could be improved.

It’s best to do this anonymously, either by asking students to write it down on an unnamed sheet of paper or sticky note, or by getting them to fill in an anonymous online form. This way, you’re more likely to receive honest answers.

Once you have collected all of their responses, take the time to go through them and really try to understand their feedback. If you’re unsure of how you can resolve them, use the next lesson to raise some of the most commonly mentioned issues and ask your students how they think you could improve upon them.

For example, let’s say a number of students find that the lessons are being taught too quickly and that they are failing to grasp a lot of the subject. However, you aren’t sure how to resolve this as you only have a limited amount of time to get through the curriculum.

Ask your students if there’s anything you can do that would help. You could even offer them some suggestions such as:

Once you have come up with suitable solutions to any issues, you will find that your students are more engaged in lessons as their needs are met and they feel more understood.

10. Make Learning Fun

Hand students a test on paper and see their faces drop. Set those same questions as a quiz on Kahoot and see their faces light up with joy.

The difference is how you go about testing their knowledge. As soon as students see learning as something stressful and negative, they tune out. Make learning fun and they’ll be better engaged and enthusiastic about taking part.

Thanks to technology, there are far more opportunities for learning to be fun than there were in the past. Apps like Quizlet make revision more enjoyable, Kahoot makes taking a test fun.

Why is Engagement So Important?

Engaged students are more actively involved in lessons and activities, leading to deeper understanding and greater enjoyment. Lower student engagement often predicts a negative trajectory across their education.

Research has also shown that engaging students in the learning process results in an increase in attention and focus, which motivates them into higher-level critical thinking.

How Can DMS Help You to Improve Engagement in the Classroom?

At DMS, we know that the education sector is constantly trying to keep up with the latest trends and technology to help increase engagement and foster new skills within the classroom.

However, we also know that schools are under an immense amount of pressure with limited budgets due to stringent government cutbacks, which means finding the funding for new IT equipment is more difficult than ever.

This is we at DMS, we offer tailored lease packages designed to meet all of your school’s needs, helping you to spread the budget while benefiting from the latest technology.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to find out how we can help you.

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