Here are some simple techniques you can add to your teaching to engage even the most difficult students with no extra time.
There are hundreds of interesting ways for students to learn and many of them take very little additional preparation time. In fact, the lecture style of content delivery (‘chalk and talk’) is the least effective way to learn, yet the most commonly used in classrooms.
When you make your lessons interactive and student-centred, your students are more likely to be engaged and less likely to be off-task or disruptive.
1. Let the kids talk to each other. Think, pair, share is one of the easiest tools teachers can use to engage students, but it is extremely under-used.
At any point during your lecture or instruction you can give students the chance to share their knowledge or thoughts with a partner.
Giving students legitimate opportunities to chat during the lesson reduces the likelihood that they will talk when you are talking (one of the most challenging behaviours teachers deal with on a daily basis).
When you allow your students to talk to each other, they are able to clarify their own ideas about a topic in addition to learning from their buddy.
They are also developing vital social skills through interaction with others. Think, pair, share can be used with any age group, from 4 yr olds to adults.
If you are worried about how to get them back from the chatter, agree on a time limit and a simple call to order. For example, set a time limit of 2 minutes and then a timer will go off, a bell will ring or you will raise your hand.
When you use this strategy regularly, students will return to listening promptly because they know that you will allow them to talk again at another relevant point in the lesson.
2. Use visuals. 65% of the population are visual learners which means they collect information with their eyes. This might take a little more preparation time, but with the internet and IWBs in classrooms, it is pretty easy to find a picture related to your lesson topic.
Giving the students a focal point for the lesson (other than your face) will keep them engaged and make the lesson more interesting, meaningful and relevant. Use a variety of visuals to mix it up: photos, paintings, diagrams, maps, graphs, charts, drawings, sketches etc.
3. Allow students to design learning tasks. Give students the job of coming up with task questions, quizzes, projects or planning the unit of work. Let them decide what resources they may need, who they will work with and how to organise the tasks.
When students are given choice in what they learn and how they learn, they are more motivated because they are actively engaged and making decisions for themselves.
4. Use a talking circle for content delivery. The talking circle structure means that students are doing most of the talking and the problem solving.
Design a lesson using a check in question that gauges what they already know about the topic and then pose a problem to be solved in groups and presented back to the class.
Any resources needed for the group work can be accessed by the students from around the room, from the library or on the computer.
Include a mixer and energiser to ensure that students work with a variety of people and that you end the lesson on a high.
Use your check out as formative assessment and find out what students have learnt.
5. Tell a story. Make your content more relevant by reading or telling an (interesting) story to your students that relates to your lesson.
Stories make learning more memorable and meaningful.
If you can find a funny, sad, poignant story that illustrates the salient points of your lesson, students are far more likely to recall the learning.
Remember ‘telling is not teaching’. And if you use your body with actions and movement to tell the story even better!
What are your ‘go to’ strategies to keep students interested and learning more effectively? Please share them with us on our Facebook page!