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Top Tips for Improving Student Engagement July 14, 2010

Two Teacher License

There is little more important in the world of education today than improving student engagement.

If you want:

• Yourself to enjoy teaching.
• Your students to enjoy school.
• Your students’ test scores to go up.
• The day to pass smoothly and quickly.
• The administration to stay off your back.
• AND————
• Your students to learn!

Then “student engagement” is what you want to make a science of!

Many permissive teachers with out of control classrooms believe they have engaged students. They believe, “This is what the kids want to do, and if I don’t let them, then they won’t like school.”

The truth is it is quite the opposite. The truth is it is like a sugar high for them, and in the end, it leaves them feeling bad about how they are spending their days.

Student Engagement Defined

Years back student engagement centered around “time-on-task.” More modern interpretations center on students willingness to engage in learning and to engage in learning the curriculum.

1. Are students attending class? When things are going great students are attending class. You want your attendance rate to be at the top of your schools. If it is, you are half way to true educational success. (But beware, kids also love to attend crazy out of control classes… they just don’t feel good about it afterwards.)

2. Are students turning in and completing the daily class work and their homework? Kids feel a burning desire to get the work done when they are engaged. They will be trying their best to keep up with the assignments.

3. Are students following directions? When student are not engaged they continually test, test, test the boundaries. When they are engaged they are more interested in keeping up than in “testing the boundaries.” Kids will stop engaging in chit-chat with other students when they feel that burning desire to get their work done.

4. What is not there that is also important. The absence of negative behaviors and attitudes are a clear sign that students are engaged. You don’t want to see cheating or the destruction of school property. These are two actions that scream, “I am not engaged.”

Monitoring Student Engagement Through Monitoring Cognition and Concentration

1. Students can give feedback on their own learning and engagement. You can use checklists, surveys, and questionnaires to find out how engaged students are. You will need to develop a great system for this to be truly effective. If you do,  you will receive fabulous insights as to how engaged your students are.

2. There is no substitute for direct observation and “note taking” on what you see and don’t see. Included on the teacher side of monitoring student engagement would be maintaining portfolios and using rating scales.

3. Use a timer to check for specific behaviors at predetermined intervals. Track their engagement.

What’s Your Passion?

Find the areas you excel in and use your passion to engage students.

My passions are math and teaching writing. I have become a master at teaching elementary students essay writing by using the “Quick and Easy Essay Writing for Kids” writing program. For math I use manipulatives as much as I can. Since most teachers find math manipulatives difficult and time consuming, I ended up with the majority of our schools math manipulatives. It makes things much easier when you have enough to go around!

Warning: Using math manipulative too much can be a time vacuum. Inexperienced teachers often get questionable results. Also, you do need to put the time in AFTER SCHOOL for preparation. The more manipulatives you have, the less prep time it takes. If you have a huge box for every group it solves a lot of problems!

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