contributed by Graham Glass, CEO at Cypher Learning
When you think back to your school years, those teachers who managed to inspire the class through exciting lessons will no doubt be the most memorable.
These teachers would always find a way to make even the dullest of lessons captivating, creating a positive impact on students’ learning experience. After all, engaging classes are about the teacher. No matter where learning takes place, you can transform your lessons into an adventure that will spark students’ interest and keep them focused for a lot longer than you’d expect.
A while ago, flashy props and chunky textbooks were among the most popular teaching aids. However, once technology came into play, it improved the teaching experience considerably. Edtech is now part of the norm, although some teachers are reluctant to count on technology and make it part of the class.
Let’s have a look at some strategies that you can implement in your classes to make them more engaging.
Gamify the learning process
Students of all ages love games and blending fun and engaging activities into the education experience will make it easier for students to remember previously learned concepts and access that information whenever they need it.
Instead of just clicking through learning materials aimlessly, students will enjoy being rewarded with points and badges for their learning efforts, and you’ll notice how online participation rates are increasing. By gamifying your classes (a physical or digital classroom), you have a chance to motivate students and make them more interested in learning.
The fun part is that you can create games based on students’ interests. For example, you could include names from popular movies or TV series, such as Harry Potter, with the game levels borrowing the following names: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, etc.
Use thoughtful collaboration
That is, collaboration that actually benefits all collaborating students.
While school is a serious matter, this doesn’t mean that students should be quiet at all times during class. Of course, some students don’t mind being loud and expressing their ideas in any context, but it’s important to consider introverted students as well.
The easiest way to go about this is to divide the class into multiple groups. Use your judgment to determine who will work well together. Giving them a break from solo bookwork and pairing them with their friends can help to increase their excitement and engagement with the task while providing them with an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas and learnings with peers.
The same can happen during online learning. Divide the class into breakout rooms, set them a task to discuss and work on in groups, and check in regularly to monitor their progress.
Use engaging materials, tools, and resources
Whether through art, technology, film, music, etc.–engaging media and engaging tools engage students. You can also include video games, augmented or virtual reality in your classes.
Young learners should be encouraged to express their creativity, and VR tools are just what you need for that. Since there are no physical barriers, students get a chance to explore all parts of the world without leaving the class. They could ‘climb’ the highest peak in the world, take a virtual trip to a famous museum, check out the inside of the White House, and a lot more.
Thanks to a VR headset, students can broaden their horizons and fully immerse themselves in a subject, and there are plenty of useful VR apps that you can pick from. Everyone will be excited to take turns and explore something new and exciting. Although this form of interactive learning won’t necessarily feel like work to the students, they will undoubtedly learn a lot and become more curious and ambitious about the subject matter. Virtual reality can further help to limit distractions for students when studying.
Give students a voice
Educators know that their students’ contributions are vital to the learning process, which is why it’s crucial to plan many opportunities for students to speak into lesson plans. By prioritizing student voices in your classes, you can encourage them to think critically and be more interested in their learning, as well as helping to strengthen their relationships with teachers and peers.
Try to get to know your students better and show them that you value who they are by asking about their lives. When checking their work, do this in small groups or individually so they feel comfortable answering your questions.
When asking for student feedback, they understand how powerful their voices are when learning or changing the class.
Change the format, setting, or context of the learning
You don’t need to read countless studies to understand that students find it challenging to concentrate for long periods. The younger they are, the more difficult it can be to engage them throughout the class.
To make things easier to digest, you could break your classes into smaller chunks or flip the classroom and let your students take the lead. For example, an hour of teaching could comprise an icebreaker followed by a short introduction. For the central part of the lesson, you could show students a video and start a debate based on it afterward.
You don’t always need to follow the same pattern. It’s more important to find a structure that works well for your students.
Many teachers have a hard time when it comes to creating engaging lessons. However, using edtech tools and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable and excited to learn can truly transform the teaching and learning experience for teachers and students. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach and students are all so different, teachers can make small tweaks to these strategies along the school year for a better experience.