Every teacher has experienced the sinking feeling of looking around a classroom and realizing that the students are so bored that they are hardly listening. Indeed, student engagement is a difficult thing to accomplish. Some of the responsibility rests on the students themselves. But here at The Tenney School, we wonder if much of the blame for student boredom should be placed on the standard classroom model of most schools. We have found that students are far more engaged – and thus learn far better – when they have some choice in what and how they learn. Here are four ways of giving students a choice that will lead to better student engagement.
1. Encourage students to respectfully voice their opinions.
Students often feel it is disrespectful to speak up unless the opportunity is clearly given to them. They do not want to say what is truly on their minds unless they know they will be listened to. Thus, it is important to engage students by creating an environment of mutual listening and sharing. Help students understand that, although teachers do have more experience, the student’s honest opinion is an important consideration. School is preparing them to be fully-functioning adults; so it is a good idea to begin sharing skills right away. As students learn a good balance between talking and listening, they will be better able to hone their skills and learn even more.
2. Leave time in class for student discussion and input.
Although student opinion about class structure and content should be made known outside of class time, students should have time to speak up in class as well. Nothing is so disengaging as simply enduring one teacher’s voice for the entire class period. On the other hand, students will engage with the material if they know their thoughts matter for their classmates. Give time in class for students to bring up questions and reflections on class material. Allow them to discuss it with each other, respectfully disagree with each other, and intelligently debate their opinions with each other. Remind students that each person in the class has something unique and different to offer to the discussion. No one’s reflections are less legitimate than others. Peers need each other to learn and grow.
3. Give assignments that can be completed in various ways.
Not every assignment has to be a paper. Consider allowing your students to choose how to wish to complete a certain assignment. Once students complete their research, give them the freedom to present it as a written paper, a poetic/dramatic presentation, a speech, or a hands-on project. That way, each student can tap into his or her own individual gifts and interests. Each student can take true pride in the project, and the classroom will come alive far more than ever before. Chances are high that students will remember information far more clearly when they present in a way that resonates with them. For reading assignments, consider having several different options of similar length, which students can choose from. In class, students can share what they learned from their specific choices, thus benefitting everyone.
4. Allow students to choose which modules are taught.
Each and every class is different. Some classes are bored with what other classes struggle with. Thus, it is important to gauge the level of your class, and even give students some say in which modules are taught. Of course, teachers and leadership make the final call. But listening to students is an important part of that call. Allow students to voice their interest levels regarding certain topics. Ask students if they would prefer extra homework in one area so that they can cut back in another area. Work with the class to enhance their learning experience and help them perform to the best of their ability.
Student Engagement Done Right
The Tenney School is passionate about helping students reach their maximum academic potential. And that is why we believe that student engagement is so important. Each student learns slightly differently; and giving students a choice allows them to tap into their own individual abilities far more than a typical classroom setting would. We are serious about giving students individual attention so that they can bolster their weaknesses and enhance their skills. If you would like to know more about our school, please contact us. You will soon see what sets us apart from other schools.