It goes without saying that the last few years have been tough on both teachers and students. 2020 forced both groups to switch to remote learning practically overnight. Stress and uncertainty became a daily part of K–12 education. Now, many schools are facing staff shortages following the latest wave of omicron. While teachers across the country are doing their best to keep students safe, there are other factors which promise to make learning difficult in the coming year.

The constant interruptions to daily learning have caused many students to check-out entirely. After all, what’s the point of paying attention when classes could be canceled any day? This habit of coasting sets students on a dangerous trajectory. Not only are they missing the important lessons of today, but they are also developing bad habits which could hamper them in future academics. If we hope to foster student curiosity and growth in the days ahead, we need to break their veil of apathy and get them to re-engage with the content.

Student Engagement Strategies

Getting students to engage with their lessons doesn’t have to be difficult. Humans have an innate sense of curiosity and creativity. Simply by teasing out these human traits, we can draw them back into the world of education and get them thinking about the world around them. Here are just a few student engagement strategies teachers can employ in their classroom to get students thinking and learning:

  • Ideal to Real: Learning is more engaging when we see, hear, and touch what we’re learning about. Make learning concrete by incorporating costumes and props. Learning about railroads? Bring in a railroad spike. Learning about fossils? Provide students with one they can hold and examine. If you’re teaching remotely, to incorporate common household items into your lesson (a lightbulb, a battery, vinegar and baking soda, etc.)
  • Messing About: Play is essential to growth and development as it gives our students a sense of how our world works. So, put those tools out there and let students explore! By giving our students opportunities to grapple with the materials and/or the content before the intended learning happens, we open up opportunities to make connections before they learn the planned content.
  • Open-Ended Questions: One of the best (and easiest!) ways to get students to think differently and creatively is to pose a question that is open-ended. By posing open-ended questions, it sends students the message that there is more than one way to solve any problem and gives them permission to find a way that is meaningful to them.
  • Top Secret: There’s nothing more tempting than forbidden fruit—so use the Top Secret strategy to make knowledge a mouthwatering apple. Before you teach new content, close the door. Tell them you don’t want anyone to find out that you’re teaching them this idea. Take advantage of the fact that people are fascinated by the illicit.
The Road Ahead

Life under COVID hasn’t been easy, and I think we all know the road ahead will be a challenging one. Still, teachers don’t have to walk this road alone. If you found these ideas helpful, then take a moment to check out these other free instructional strategies courtesy of Blue Apple. You can also engage your student’s free lessons connecting to current events by downloading these Timely Topics. Let’s help our students rediscover their critical thinking skills and make this year one they will always remember.

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