2.2 Engaging Students in Learning. Keeping students engaged during lessons is critical to increasing student achievement. Recognizing when student engagement is low, and being flexible enough to be able to change the lesson is also key to creating a successful learning environment. Throughout the last six years of my teaching career, I have learned a lot about best practices in keeping students engaged, but also continue looking for ways to get my students even more engaged in lessons. One of my focus areas for student engagement this year is Math. Mathematics is one of those subjects where kids feel like they either get it, or they don’t. When they aren’t “getting it,” their engagement starts to wane, and achievement drops. While working with division and word problems, I tried something new: I gathered dry erase markers and wipes and wrote short messages on four of my students’ desks while they were at recess. When they came back inside, they were so excited about this new idea, and were immediately engaged in our Math lesson before it even started. Then, after listening to word problems read aloud, students used Expo markers and small cubes to draw groups of objects on their desks to strengthen their understanding of ways that division is represented.
Another subject area in which I led a successful engaging lesson surrounds the topic of Science and our unit on the moon. One of the objectives of the unit is to teach students the eight phases of the moon. After using videos and full color diagrams to introduce the topic to my students, they used provided lyrics to practice and perform a “Moon Rap.” Later, I pulled out a box of Oreo cookies and some plastic knives. We practiced twisting the two pieces off gently, and then got to work! Students carefully moved around the cookie’s icing to show the phases, put them in correct order, then demonstrated their knowledge by reading each phase to me before eating their cookies. From an initial assessment to a final assessment soon after practicing with Oreo cookies, nearly 80% of my students increased their understanding.
Keeping students engaged in learning contributes to greater student achievement in many ways. When students are excited to learn, their brains will stay open to the new knowledge. If students are not engaged in the learning process, they will not be motivated to learn.