How do you become a “fun” teacher? Fun was never my strong suit, but I was always working on making my lessons more engaging. When you break away from the traditional “lecture and notes” model of teaching, students are more likely to retain the new information. In this post, I want to share three quick engaging strategies you can apply to any lesson that will excite your students!
Engaging Strategies: Mix-up Your Media
In English, many of our units center around whole novels. Our “unconventional” units may center around other forms of writing: poetry, nonfiction, articles, etc.
When you incorporate non-writing texts, however, suddenly your lessons stand out from everyday activities. Mixing up your media by adding videos, songs, and art is a strategy that you can use with almost any lesson. Plus, having students analyze art, film, and music like a text will earn you major Common Core bonus points!
Rather than list a few mediocre ideas here, I’m going to direct you to my dear friend Gina. Gina is the mastermind behind AP Lit and More.
She has a wonderful article here about using mixed media in your classroom. This blog post is detailed and packed with specific and actionable ideas. In this post, Gina goes through the different ways you can use video, audio, and even internet texts to catch your students’ attention. What I really love about Gina’s article is that she gives you specific examples and ties them to skills or lessons.
Want to learn more about using video clips in your classroom specifically? You can check out this guest post by Yaddy of Yaddy’s Room as well.
Engaging Strategies: Make it Hands-on
Another way to really engage students in any skill is to make it hands-on. This might sound difficult or intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be.
One really quick way to make some skill practice hands-on is to turn a worksheet into task cards. Instead of having all of the questions or tasks on a worksheet, turn them into individual cards and stack them like a deck. Now, students will have to handle, touch, or shuffle the cards to engage in the practice.
Another idea is to get kids crafting. If you have some Play-Doh lying around, use it in your classroom! While studying symbols or images, have your students use Play-Doh to create a sculpture to represent their ideas.
When reading a book or play, let students get creative. Have them create or provide costumes for the characters. (Even a paper hat or plastic sword can be symbolic of the character a student is reading for.) Instead of having students read independently, put them in groups to create their own script and perform for the rest of the class.
Even turning worksheets into foldables is a quick way to add tactility to your lessons.
Using hands-on engagement strategies will break up the monotony of daily class and is a research-backed way to make new information “stick” in your students’ minds.
Engaging Strategies: Add Movement
The last quick win for engagement is to add movement. If you can get kids up and out of their seats, they’ll be more likely to remember what they’re learning, recall it later, and time in your room will fly by!
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do this is to spread out your worksheet. That’s right; take a worksheet you’re already planning on using, and cut up the questions. Now, place them around the room (tape them to the walls/doors/windows) and force students to get up and walk around to complete the answers.
Scavenger hunts are another of my favorite ways to get students moving. One of my favorite activities involves hanging up poetry posters around the room. Then, students attempt to find different figurative language examples in those poems.
Even simply utilizing stations in the classroom will add movement, and thus engagement. Have students complete one activity or practice assignment in one station, and then have students rotate through those stations during class.
You don’t have to completely redo your lesson plans to add movement. Doing partner discussions? Turn that into walking discussions around the school.
There is an endless number of ways that you can creatively add movement to your classroom routines.
You don’t have to be the “fun” teacher to use engaging strategies in your classroom. Engagement isn’t about having fun; it’s about getting students to really grapple with the skills they’re learning. Engagement means connecting ideas with the senses so that students can more easily hold on to them.
If you get obsessive about the concept of fun, you might stress yourself out. Or worse–lose sight of the lesson you’re supposed to be teaching! Don’t worry about making every lesson super engaging. Look through your calendar and scheduled lesson plans. Where can you sprinkle in these engagement strategies?
Start small. Take a worksheet you love and turn it into exit tickets or a school-wide scavenger hunt. Take a classroom discussion outside, around the school, or even to the library’s comfy chairs. Use some movie clips as examples of literary terms.
Simply breaking the routine and playing around with students’ expectations is enough to make them sit up and pay attention. Now, go out and put these engaging strategies to use!