Saturday, August 30, 2014

Get & Keep Students Engaged ALL Year Long!

Let's face it. Today, it can be more challenging than ever to capture the attention or interest of students AND KEEP it in order to successfully engage them in meaningful learning. The number of distractions with which we are competing for their attention is daunting. As educators, we can spend a significant number of hours preparing lessons only to find that they fall short of getting the student attention we expected.

The stimulating videos and online resources our children and students are drawn to in their free time grab their interest and hold it. Their favorite music selections are loaded onto mp3 players or other tech devices that play almost constantly. A student's world is filled with so many kinds of sensory stimuli. In fact, some educational experts believe that this nearly constant need for visual and auditory stimulation may actually be contributing to some of the attention deficiencies we see in so many students today.

So, today, it is a fairly tall order for nearly every educator---even the very skilled, master teachers---to get and KEEP students truly engaged in significant learning. However, we have a more positive view of the current situation. You know the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" Although we would not recommend you "friending" your students to "join 'em", we do think an excellent approach for teachers to take is to appeal to what students VALUE in order to help students learn.

First of all, if students see that you truly RESPECT them and what they CARE about, they will be much more malleable and willing to take the needed steps to becoming involved in their own learning. On one recent school day, a teacher emptied her purse of a soft apple, a Power Bar and some Dum Dums when she knew that a "reluctant-to-learn" high school student in her class was hungry. He immediately brightened and opened his notebook. He knew through this teacher's actions (not words) that she genuinely cared about him and his hunger. When this happens, students soften and are much more willing to care more, too---about learning.

Learning about WHAT students VALUE is also a very important component when laying the groundwork for true student engagement. You just might need to ask some good questions of your students. These may not be the usual history or biology questions but inquiries into what they like AND what they don't like. Their opinions and insights should be of value to an "engaged educator"---truly! Of course, to allow students to be completely candid, these questions should be answered by them in writing. Here is a list of questions to consider asking your students as the new school year begins:

1. Describe your last [science/math/English] class.
2. What did you like best about the class?
3. What made the best class you have ever taken "the best"?
4. What made "the worst class" the worst?
5. What do you do when you are not in school?
6. What is important to you?
7. What do you expect of me, the teacher?
8. What would you like me to know about you that I haven't asked?
(Source: To Help Students Learn, Appeal to What They Value by Heidi A. Olinger---See link to follow.)

If you are a homeschooling parent, you most likely know many of the answers your child will provide for these questions. If so, waste no time in utilizing what you already know so well about your child. Incorporate the interests of your child in presenting new selections to read for a specific content area. Allow her to choose from an array of selections rather than just assign a text you "think" she will like.

Pay close attention to how your children or students learn best. What is the learning style of each child? Arrange classroom furniture or the homeschooling room to address the individual styles that are present. Be sure to include "listening stations" with headphones for auditory learners, floor pillows and lower lighting areas for tactile learners or those students who have sensory needs. We could go on here, but as educators, you most likely know how to create specific learning centers in your room to meet these learning style needs.

In addition, there are many other things you can do to promote much more effective student engagement in the learning space you have. To help you, we have included what we believe are some excellent resources for this purpose from It will be helpful to you to take a good look at these resources and consider implementing some of them from the very beginning of the new school term in order for them to be most successful. In that way, you will have a very good chance of GETTING and KEEPING the students truly ENGAGED in learning---ALL year long!

Sources & Resources to Get Students Engaged---NOW & All Year Long!

Student Engagement: Resource Roundup
Keeping students captivated and ready to learn throughout the year is no small task. Here's a list of articles, videos, links, and other resources that offer strategies and advice for keeping them engaged in learning.
Resources Grouped by Topic:
-Tips and Strategies for Keeping Students Engaged
-Engagement Through Projects
-Engagement Through Technology
-Engagement Through Social and Emotional Learning
-Additional Resources on the Web

To Help Students Learn, Appeal to What They Value
by Heidi A. Olinger &
The non-academic passions, social intrigues and fads we would dismiss as teachers are among the things students value and, ironically, are a springboard for learning. What are your ideas for uncovering and working with students' values? This article presents some great ways to discover what those student values really are.

Ten Simple Strategies for Re-engaging Students
by Andrew Marcinek & (Updated January 2014)
Find the best way to connect with students and realize that not all connections will suit every student. Connections can be made through a variety of ways. Set a course for learning and be prepared for rough seas. Create a practical alternative or adaptation that blends elements of what we have been doing and what we would like to do better. The connections will follow.

For more information on customizable reading tools for all kinds of learners, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

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