Top Five Ways to Engage Students in Your Classroom
Note: Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Dr. Tina Rooks, who serves as Vice President and Chief Instructional Officer at Turning Technologies. With over 16 years of experience in education, she was instrumental in developing the educational consulting team and building the Turning Technologies school improvement initiative specifically for the K-12 market.
No matter what subject they teach or what age group their students fall into, all teachers face the same basic challenge: They have to find a way to actively engage students in the learning process. Today’s learners tend to respond best to interactive teaching methods, so many instructors have integrated technology into their lesson plans. Here are five ways to engage students in your classroom.
- Use responsive technology. Many instructors use PowerPoint slides to present material to students, but to really get students involved and engaged, you need to find a way to turn a lecture into a two-way conversation. Responsive technology can help, allowing you to embed questions into your presentation and enable students to answer using a keypad or smartphone. A good responsive technology solution can enable you to instantly aggregate and display response data in chart form. It’s a great icebreaker, and it can provide incredibly valuable insight by letting you accurately gauge knowledge levels in real time.
- Make your lesson focused by defining objectives. Almost any project benefits from clearly defined goals, and education is no exception. When creating your lesson plan, outline the objectives you and your students would like to accomplish. Your goals will vary according to your subject matter, but most sessions will have common themes, such as improving students’ knowledge on a topic and their ability to retain key points. Student participation can also be a goal. If you’re using responsive technology, you can adjust lectures on the fly based on how the class responds, spending more time on harder-to-grasp topics and moving on once student responses indicate that they understand.
- Add context to interactive slides. To get the most out of a responsive technology strategy, it’s helpful to think through your objectives for your interactive slides. The exact wording will depend on your subject matter, of course, but there are three general approaches that can work well for all types of topics. First, you can gauge student’s existing topic knowledge with a pre-assessment slide. Then, you can see how they’ve progressed at the midpoint with a slide that has questions designed to explore how they are applying what they’ve learned. A post-assessment slide can help you understand how students are using the new concepts they’ve learned to solve problems.
- Keep slides uncluttered and simple. It can be tempting to cram as much information as you can fit onto a slide, but excessive text can be more confusing than instructive. Keep in mind that most learning happens during a discussion of the topic, not from reading the words on a slide, so keep the text to a minimum – just enough so that students can understand the question or subject – and rely on the discussion to flesh out key points. And although it can also be fun to embed graphics and videos into slides, remember that this can distract students from the core of the lesson as well, so only add images and graphic elements that really help to convey your point.
- Keep your presentation interactive throughout. It’s fairly common for presenters to start off a session with a warm-up question or icebreaker and end with a Q&A portion. That can be a great way to establish rapport and wrap up loose ends. But it’s also important to keep the audience engaged at every point during the presentation. Using responsive technology to embed questions for the class on multiple slides gives students a stake in the discussion from beginning to end. When crafting questions, remember that the queries don’t have to be specifically designed to measure students’ knowledge – sometimes open-ended questions or queries about the audiences’ opinions rather than fact-based questions can spark highly engaging discussions.
For teachers who are seeking new ways to connect with students, creating an interactive presentation can be the key to achieving a truly engaged classroom. A responsive technology solution makes it easy to embed questions and gather and analyze audience responses. A focused presentation with clear goals captures learners’ attention, and gauging learner progress with contextual slides that are simple and clutter-free gives the instructor valuable clues about the effectiveness of the session. But most of all, inviting students to participate in a lesson as a two-way conversation enhances the learning process. If you follow these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to full classroom engagement.