There’s no doubt that lesson plans are incredibly important for being able to teach your students in an organized and structured way where you can include all the topics, ideas, and concepts into a single learning session.
However, while these provide the backbone for any teacher in their day-to-day career, they can become a little predictable, and sometimes overwhelming for the students.
After days or weeks of going through similar lesson plans which don’t encourage much involvement from the students themselves, it can make them uninterested and cause them to feel unengaged with what is actually being taught.
Therefore, it’s essential for anyone in a teaching position to acknowledge a few key methods and strategies that can help keep a class engaged so that you can inspire a greater sense of interest among the students, rather than re-hashing the same powerpoint over and over again.
With that being said, here are 10 easy but effective strategies for increasing student engagement in a lesson that you should try out today.
1. Always Ask Open-Ended Questions
While for some subjects such as math, there is a right answer for a certain question or equation, for many others the answer isn’t always so clear and can take a little more thought and interpretation, which is why it’s always important to combine straight questions with more open-ended ones since this not only keep students alert in case they are required to answer, but it also encourages them to explain how they came to that specific conclusion.
Since there is technically no “right answer”, this allows students to feel much more willing to give their own unique take and opinion rather than fearing that they may be ridiculed for giving the wrong answer, and by asking them to explain how they came to the answer, it also allows the rest of the class to discover new ways to learn thanks to their classmate.
2. Small Group Activities
Small group learning allows teachers to teach more personally and directly to specific students which tends to make them a lot more focused and engaged, especially if you give each group a different task since this also inspires a little bit of competition between the groups.
Each member of the group will also be encouraged to demonstrate what they can bring to the group, whether it be their knowledge of a specific element of the task or a personal skill such as drawing or writing, it’s an easy way to get students involved and talking to one another while also helping them feel involved in what they are learning about rather than simply writing down what is being said and reading it back to themselves later down the line.
3. Find Out What Students Know Beforehand
This is a great strategy to use when you are just about to start teaching a new topic or subject since it allows you to gain an understanding of what areas the class is already aware of, and where you may want to place more of your teaching focus.
Nothing ruins engagement and interest in a class more than when a teacher goes over information that the students already know, and this is an issue that becomes much worse if it’s during the introduction to a new topic.
Instead, start off by simply asking if anyone knows anything about the topic or subject, and have a casual discussion with the class about what they can expect to be learning about.
Ideally, this can also start a discussion among the students themselves, which is a great way to make everyone feel like they can give their own input, no matter how little they might actually know about the subject since it encourages them to speak up.
4. Ask Everyone To Respond
One of the hardest parts of teaching that many new teachers will struggle to utilize in the classroom is asking questions, especially if you ask the question out in the open and simply wait for someone to respond since it can leave a lot of dead air which wastes teaching time and makes it seem like the teacher isn’t in control of the learning space.
At the same time, it’s not always the best idea to pick someone out at random since this can sometimes provide a long and drawn-out answer, or in some instances, you may need to take more time to coach the answer from the student.
Instead, try using a few unique and creative methods so that everyone is involved in a much more fun and engaging way.
For example, an easy way to do this is to ask the class to respond to a statement with either a thumbs up or thumbs down, and then ask a few members of each side to give their reasoning for their opinion.
You can also use the whiteboard method where each student must write a brief answer of no more than a few words on a whiteboard before everyone then holds up their boards at the same time, giving you an insight into how everyone feels about the question, and who you can choose to expand on their answer to share this information with the rest of the class.
5. Encourage Students To Explain Hard Topics To The Class
Many students will find it extremely hard to fully understand each and every lesson they are taught in the classroom, and a big reason for this is because of complex topics that can inevitably come along and break up the flow of learning for many students, making them feel far less engaged since it can be extremely hard to then keep up with future lessons when there’s a key concept or idea that they don’t understand.
While it is always advised for any teacher to encourage their students to speak to them one-on-one regarding any difficult topics they are facing, not all students are willing to do this, so another good strategy can be to go over a difficult topic and ask a student who has shown that they are knowledgeable about it in their work to explain it to the class.
This not only reaffirms to the student speaking that they are correct in what they are saying, but it is also an easy way to re-iterate a difficult passage in the words of someone other than the teacher.
6. Allow Students To Discover The Answers With Hands-On Activities
You always want to try to aim to make a lesson as memorable as possible, not just because this makes it seem a lot more fun and exciting for students, but because it will also help them remember what they have learned by relating the information to a fun and enjoyable moment.
This is why hands-on activities work so well in classrooms because it lets everyone get a little more creative to reveal the final answer, which is a much more engaging way to learn about a topic as opposed to hearing it from a teacher or writing it down from a whiteboard.
For any writing-based subjects, it can be a lot easier to make custom sheets with riddles to solve, or you can present a picture that the students will need to analyze to come to a conclusion.
For math, virtual manipulatives are great resources for providing a hands-on experience through modeling and other forms of interactivity.
7. Always Provide Feedback
If a learner completes a piece of work either in class or at home and the teacher simply responds with a “good work” or “nice job”, it can be quite demotivating to the student, especially if they have spent hours working on their assigned task.
As a teacher, you should always be making as much of an effort as those that you are teaching, and this comes through the form of feedback which will help the learner understand where they can improve, along with what they have done particularly well.
Feedback should always be given when marking an assessment, but you should also try to provide it for regular class work and tasks.
These don’t need to be big paragraphs, but simply a few pointers so that you can provide a guideline for the student on how they can keep learning which will help to keep them engaged.
8. Avoid Giving Long Lectures
A sure way to break the concentration and engagement of any group of students is to give a long and lengthy lecture since after a while, without any movement or verbal discussion, it can feel like the teacher is simply speaking at them, rather than trying to make the lesson fun and exciting.
You therefore want to always break up the classes with discussions and activities, even if you have a lot of information to get through during the day since this helps each lesson stand out from the previous one and allows everyone in the class to remember what they’ve learned a lot more clearly when there are multiple engaging and interesting activities scattered throughout the session.
9. Get Students Moving Around The Classroom
It doesn’t matter what subject you’re teaching, whether it’s music which requires a lot more movement, or math where you are usually required to sit down and flick through a textbook, there are plenty of ways you can make a lesson so much more engaging by encouraging everyone in the class to move around and analyze their surroundings so that the lesson never becomes boring or monotonous.
One method of doing this which works particularly well with subjects that require a lot of interpretation like literature and history is to prepare the classroom before the students walk in with a few posters, pictures, and worksheets relevant to the topic set for that day.
Make sure these aren’t too obvious and don’t mention them to the students beforehand, otherwise it loses a lot of the surprise.
When everyone is sat down, or in the middle of the lesson, separate the class into small groups and say that there are a few decorations around the room that they must find and then interpret.
When everyone comes back together after 10 or 15 minutes, they can share what they found, what they know about the image or display that they saw, and how it relates to what they have been learning, making for a unique and engaging way to learn.
10. Let The Students Choose
Many students don’t like the feeling of being restricted, and while you should always display authority in a class so that everyone knows what is acceptable and what isn’t, there are a few instances where you can grant more agency to the students so that they can feel more in control of their learning experience.
An easy example of this is letting the kids choose their partners when it’s time to discuss a certain topic.
Of course, if you know that a particular pair likes to talk a little too much about things that aren’t relevant, or if two students don’t get along, then this may not be a viable option, but it does work well for a brand new class who you have only just started teaching.
You can also allow students to pick their own books when researching a topic rather than assigning them.
Everyone knows that a book suddenly becomes much more of a slog to read through when it has been assigned as work, so granting this freedom makes it much more enjoyable and engaging for the students and it also allows everyone to read different takes on specific topics which forms a nice mix of opinions when it’s time to discuss.
You can also incorporate this freedom into tests and homework by saying that everyone should pick a certain number of questions to answer, such as picking to complete 8 out of 10, which will also allow you to observe where certain students may be struggling depending on what questions they ignore or miss out.
Students are always going to become less interested and engaged when their lessons become predictable, which is why it’s so important to make every class unique and fun in one way or another.
Whether it’s simply asking a few open-ended questions to get everyone thinking on the spot, or organizing a few hands-on activities around the classroom for everyone to participate in, these are just a few ways you can help make the lesson far more memorable and engaging for the learners.