by Getting Smart Staff
Every teacher wants to kick off the new school year with a bang, but once you have your students’ attention, how do you keep it?
Here are a few ideas and best practices from teachers and administrators across the nation that can help maintain that “first day of school” level of engagement all year long.
1. Andrea K. Tolley
Microsoft IT Educator
Greeneville Middle School (TN)
Using technology in the classroom is one of my essential practices for keeping students engaged. Because it provides hands-on experiences, technology helps students become active in the learning process. One of my favorite tools for giving students a stake in their learning is ClassFlow. My students even beg to use it because they love it.
Students engage with the lesson because their voices are heard through contributions they make on their own devices. As a teacher, this eliminates the old pick-and-choose method. Now, every student participates when you ask a question and, as a bonus, you receive data on every student. I found even reluctant learners gain confidence in contributing.
ClassFlow lets me share note cards with students that include activities, videos and important information. I also have the ability to poll students “on the fly” or have them complete pre-built assessments. Students can annotate, highlight or type responses to passages I send. Students connect using classroom laptops, tablets, Chromebooks or even their own mobile devices. With so many ways to collaborate and connect, students stay tuned-in throughout the whole lesson.
2. Kelly Johnson
Fourth Grade Teacher
Richland School District 88A (IL)
If anything keeps my students engaged, it’s technology! In an effort to take emphasis away from the traditional textbook, I discovered Kids Discover Online (KDO). With KDO, I select articles relating to the topic I’m teaching and create a unit for the students to access and read. They explore the articles (independently and/or in small groups), and then use their findings to answer and discuss our unit’s “essential question.”
Aside from the enticing graphics within each article, one of the biggest motivators is that the students can change the text level to make it a good fit for them. Soon after the implementation of KDO in my classroom, my students were anxiously asking to read other articles or to create research projects about other topics that appealed to them. KDO’s Discover Mode quickly became part of daily centers and continues to be an integral part of my classroom.
3. Jessica Meacham
First Grade Teacher
Southern Door County (WI)
Students love to share stories! Each morning in my class, students share personal stories to practice building strong relationships through conversation. I always imagine this happens when my students go home and share the day’s happenings with their parents.
I find that the perfect way to help prompt these conversations at home and cultivate relationships between parents, students, teachers and the school is by using an app for parent communication. With the Bloomz app, I can share pictures and videos of my students during the school day. I can message parents quick updates, ask for classroom or field trip volunteers, schedule parent-teacher conferences and request necessary classroom supplies. The posts serve as conversation starters at home, and my students look forward to sharing parts of their day and personal experiences with their parents. Student engagement increases parent engagement, which is key in student success.
4. Heidi Solivan
Foxboro Regional Charter School (MA)
For me, creating lessons that are meaningful and have a purpose is ultimately the goal. I find out what interests the students, whether it be a favorite character or activity, and incorporate that into learning. I let the students have fun yet master the material I have set out for them. It’s important to know that although the content is outlined, the students drive the curriculum.
To help keep students actively engaged, I use Lightspeed’s Redcat audio system in my classroom every day. I use the system’s microphone to ensure they clearly hear every spoken word and to train the children to ask themselves questions. We begin our day with students looking at a text and asking questions like “Who is the character? Will there be a problem? What will be the solution?” Our goal is to end the day with answers to those questions.
5. Dr. Chris Marczak
Maury County Public Schools (TN)
In order to maximize student engagement, we are changing our district-wide instructional focus to be project/problem-based. We deploy various technology tools to spark interest, generate discussion and inspire creativity in Maury County Public Schools (MCPS).
Our partnerships with myON, Dreambox, TenMarks, NextLesson and Discovery Education promise to be highly enriching as students and teachers will work together to ensure classrooms engage and prepare with our MCPS Keys to College and Career Readiness.
As we begin our journey to forge a 1:1 deployment for students and staff, more students will have more access to more activities that directly relate to what they need to know and be able to do to be successful in life upon graduation.
6. Alan Geho
Special Education Teacher
Union Gap School District #2 (WA)
Student engagement is what we all hope to have in our classrooms, but engagement does not automatically result in student success. We must have authentic engagement that results in an immediate reward with lasting, deep learning. To create this success each year, I:
Part of our overall success is Reading Horizons’ methodology. The program creates an environment of authentic engagement. There is clear meaning, the students learn and progress together and they individually receive an immediate, lasting reward. (They also read and understand better than they did before!). This success empowers students to believe they can achieve in other academic areas as well.
7. Anthony Johnson
Fifth Grade Science Teacher
Isenberg Elementary School (NC)
My plan to maximize student engagement during the new school year includes three important elements: collaboration, critical thinking and Defined STEM. Designing a classroom to promote essential 21st-century skills that students need to be successful and compete in today’s job market is extremely important in student engagement.
Desks are designed for individual students—which is why I don’t have any. In my classroom, you will only find tables, collaboration bars and sofas that are perfect spots for students to think creatively and problem-solve in groups.
It is important that students are a part of the process of their own learning and are able to solve problems using what they know and learn. Defined STEM provides hands-on resources and opportunities for my students to grow and think critically while working on performance-based tasks.
Click below to see a video of my students’ learning in action. Because they are using critical thinking skills to collaborate and complete performance-based lessons, I expect my students to be fully engaged throughout the entire school year.