Engage Your Most Disinterested Students in 3 Easy Steps

Whether you are a classroom teacher, specialist, or school counselor, you have likely found that some students are just harder to reach during classroom instruction time. Let's put ourselves in their shoes for a moment. 

Have you ever sat in a faculty meeting and felt like the leaders at your school were completely out of touch with the needs of their teachers? I know I have. Feeling like your voice doesn’t matter, like your perspective isn’t important can be isolating and defeating. And it can also take a toll on one’s level of involvement and effort.

While we might not have control over how our school administrators value us as educators, we do have a say in how our students feel in our classroom. In a traditional classroom, teachers are the voice and students are the ears. Teachers say what to do and students do it. But as our understanding of learning and teaching methods grows and progresses, researchers now see a strong connection between student autonomy and student engagement in the classroom.

If you had a choice, I think we all would prefer to be in a learning environment in which our opinions are valued and we are given choices instead of simply told exactly what to do without any “give.”

This kind of shift is not necessarily easy to make, particularly for teachers who have been in the classroom for a longer period of time. But here are a few ways you can modify your current classroom methods, procedures and teaching strategies to incorporate more student choice and autonomy and also lessen your role as “the sage on the stage” in your classroom.

3 Steps to Engage Disinterested Students

1.    Instead of telling your students the answer to a question, ask them to discuss with a partner and justify their thinking. You can even give them a sentence-starter like, “I think the answer is ____ because today I learned that ____.”

2.    Give students three ways to show what they have learned at the end of the class period instead of giving them one independent assignment to complete. I like the “Talk about it, write about it, draw about it” method where students can either videotape or record themselves explaining their new knowledge, write a brief essay communicating what they’ve learned or draw an illustration that shows their main takeaways from the lesson.

3.    Give surveys to your students on a regular basis to gauge how they feel about your class and what changes they would make if they were the teacher. Google Forms is a great way to create surveys in a flash so that your students can give you confidential, focused feedback to drive your classroom instruction and structure.

At the end of the day, your job is not to make every student happy every time. But your job is to ensure that your students are learning at the deepest and most meaningful level. If you’re reading this, I already know that you’re a rockstar teacher because you care enough about your students to read education blogs in your free time! Why not try one of the tips above and see how it impacts the culture and community of your classroom?

Looking for some engaging craftivities to perk up your students and give them a brain break?  Click here.

For more tips on student-centered learning, check out this fantastic article by John McCarthy at Edutopia. 

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