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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

An Engaged Classroom . . . Dos and Don'ts

An Engaged Classroom . . . Dos and Don'ts

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38 Replies 11922 Views
We all know that students when students are truly engaged in their learning classroom discipline becomes a non-issue. So without going into specific activities, what I would be interested in hearing what types of activities engage in different age groups, and what types of activities will shut them down. I think we will find that there are more do's and don'ts than we realize! I'll start with the easy and obvious don't - lecturing! There are those times when you just have to tell them something, but I think it's best to keep this at 5 min. or less for younger students, and not much more for older students.

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Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation
Blogger 2014

Students should not see school as different from reality. That is a place to come to where people talk, talk, talk .. the participatory culture and project based learning and technology infusion has helped.

Dena's picture

Contribute to a young child's creativity by not offering your own observation but listen to what the child has to say about their creations. Smile and ask questions. This small action will get the child to open up more and want to create more.

Judy Gordon's picture

Make connections to their lives as much and as often as you can. If it isn't relevant, it's going to be a lot harder to engage them.

Susan Howell's picture
Susan Howell
Third grade special ed. resource/collaborative teacher from Monroe, GA

Great ideas,Elani Leoni. Thanks for sharing!

Debra Isenberger's picture

I use a lot of Dr. Glasser's Quality Schools theory that all children have 4 psychological needs: love & belonging, power, fun, and freedom. Combine these with structured activities that are chunked, quick & easy transitions and relevant lessons that allow the students to "do" and they will be engaged. I also have just learned about Jensen's strategies to motivate learners by managing their mental states. I can not wait to use it. There are clips of music that can be played to release chemicals in the brain to stimulate the moods you want to evoke in the students as you teach.

Shireen Richardson's picture
Shireen Richardson
I teach Middle School English, Humanities and coach sport

All great tips. I also find that when students have some control over what they are learning and how, they are more engaged. Technology is also great for engaging students - often they don't realise they are learning! I've found Wikis to be a fantastic way for students to get involved in novel analysis tasks. My students have been spending their evenings voluntarily working on their Wikis. Students who are usually silent in class discussions have been engaged by the asynchronous nature of online discussions.

John Bennett's picture
John Bennett
Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

There are a number of suggestions that fall within the general one of promoting intrinsic motivation. As most are aware, intrinsically motivated students take their learning efforts seriously, truly learning the knowledge and skills and being able to apply them to solving interesting and important problems. And of course, in the process they discover the joy and fun of learning - important lifelong to careers and personal lives. For those wanting to read more, the book "Drive" by Daniel Pink has a good review and introduces three elements - autonomy, mastery, and purpose - that teachers can keep in mind to promote intrinsic engagement in their students. As mentioned, many suggestions made here are aligned with these elements.


David Ginsburg's picture
David Ginsburg
Instructional Coach, Leadership Coach, Math Specialist

To Traci's point about less lecture, the real learning takes place when we're in the trenches assessing and assisting students while THEY are writing, doing math, etc. as opposed to when WE are doing those things in front of them. Check out my blog post
Practice (With Coaching) Makes Proficient for more on this.

Molly McCloskey's picture
Molly McCloskey
Managing Director of Whole Child Programs at ASCD

One of the best strategies for developing engaging lesson plans is to first have a solid grasp of thier developmental levels - what is engaging for a typical third grader is not engaging to a typical sixth grader, for instance. My favorite very user friendly source for teachers is the book Yardsticks by Chip Wood. It's a simple reference to keep right next to your planner.

Margo Stevenson's picture

Am going to be teaching High School Spanish. Alot of it is dry, boring grammar: indirect objects, pronouns, conjugating verbs.

any ideas for helping this come to life?

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