Engaging Students: One Word that Will Change Everything

Engaging Students: One Word that Will Change Everything

Imagine what your life would be like if you let yourself find awe every day in the world around you. If you saw wonder in the stars above you, the insects below you, and the weather changes around you. What if you applied that fascination to your teaching? If you became even more passionate about the content you teach, and you were intentional with sharing that with your students?

You’d be well on your way to solving one of the biggest and most frustrating classroom challenges—engaging today’s easily distracted and quickly bored students. Because, as we all know, if kids aren’t absorbed in the content we teach and excited about it, we’ve lost them.

Is the “why” missing from your instruction?

Young children ask “why” at least a million times a day. It’s because they are insatiably curious about the world around them. Why does the sun go away at night? Why do birds fly? Why do tornadoes happen? Sure, you may feel exasperated with all the questions—they seem to never end. And, sometimes (let’s be honest) you simply don’t know the answers.

But there’s something important to be learned from our children’s early questions about the world.  They want answers. And, when you give them answers, they naturally want to probe even deeper. This is what engaged learning is all about!

Take a lesson from a toddler

When was the last time you walked with a two year old? It’s quite the experience in wonder. Toddlers don’t walk very fast. They take a few steps, then stop to pick up a rock or observe a worm. They might follow a bird along the trail or stand there and feel the wind rustling their hair. If you’re lucky, you can find moments of wonder like this in your own teaching. Learn more.

Yes, you have many things to worry about in your classroom. There is technology, state standards, exams, difficult behavior, under-achievers. The list goes on and on.  But don’t forget about the wonder of learning. Every day, get excited. Express it. Explain it. Your children will imitate your passion. Just watch!

Today, start giving your students a reason to learn:

  1. Start with your You teach because you believe in the power of education. Right? Learning unlocks the good life, builds confidence and opens up doors. Share this with your students.
  2. Tell them you care. Do your children know how much you value them? Before every lesson, convey how you want them to know everything they might need to live extraordinary lives.
  3. Show them you care. Go out of your way to remember details about their personal lives. Invite them to share what they did over the weekend. Pay attention when they speak.
  4. Tell a story. Students will not remember content that means little to them personally. Every once in a while, share how someone used a skill you’re teaching in class to make it meaningful. Made-up stories are fine.
  5. Teach citizen skills. Your goal is to prepare children to contribute to society. As you teach creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and other “tomorrow,” skills, show your class how they apply in the real world.
  6. Teach job skills. Give students a reason to perform math and write grammatically. Seize opportunities so show them how basic skills like these can lead to jobs they enjoy and profit from.

There are thousands of books and articles out there packed with strategies for engaging students. Incorporating the why into your instruction should top the list. When children are fully absorbed, when they are not clock watching, when they don’t want to stop…they’re in the engagement zone. What are you doing to achieve this type of engagement every day?

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