Planned Student Engagement
Theresa London Cooper
Too often, I hear teachers remark, “If I could only get my students to stop talking, they would learn more.” Students learn best when they are interested and engaged and they converse about their thinking, wondering, and discoveries. Research tells us students learn from each other. Thinking about ways to involve students in their learning is essential and will improve the effectiveness of your lessons. Planning for student engagement insures that it occurs more often. As you plan lessons, think about how you will encourage students to process the information. Let us consider a number of strategies that I have found to increase student engagement. I am not the originator of the strategies, but learned about them through extensive reading (Linda Hoyt, Dr. Spencer Kagan and others).
Grouping is a wonderful way of involving students. Think about those students who work well together. You may vary your groups according to interests, subject, and/or ability. Consider the number of students that work well together – pairs, trios, and quads. Bear in mind the purpose of the activity and which form of grouping best lends itself to the work. It is also critical to remember to pair a strong and weaker student so that the strong student is challenged by teaching and the weaker student is supported by learning from a peer. Both students will learn, as teaching fosters deeper understanding and learning.
Assign numbers to groups of students. By doing this the teacher can make sure each student has a chance to participate. Make sure children understand that everyone is responsible for knowing particular information by the end of an activity, but don’t tell them who will report the information. The process gives students an opportunity to practice team building and support each member’s learning. I’ve found that students feel more accountable and focus on the task at hand.
Think-pair-share is a wonderful way to help students focus student conversation. It gives them “wait time” to think. All students have an opportunity to share their thoughts with a partner when they pair-up while the teacher circulates around the room listening to the conversations and taking a few notes. The teacher can facilitate the large group share by identifying some of the conversations that best responds to the purpose of the talk. You may direct students to conduct a Think-Write-Pair-Share. In this instance before they share their thinking with a partner, each student writes or draws a few thoughts to help them target the relevant comments they want to make.
Turn and talk is another strategy that supports student engagement. Pose a question or make a thought-provoking comment and give each student an opportunity to share their thoughts with another peer in the class. By using this strategy, every child has a chance to speak. If you select three or four students to speak you’ll decrease the likelihood of students tuning out and you can spend less time with a whole group share. Moreover, it gives students with less confidence time to share their thinking in pairs and the students are not frustrated or distracted by not sharing.
I remember is a strategy that helps students focus on and process pertinent information in expository text. After reading or listening to a read aloud, students turn to a partner and begin their conversation with the statement “I remember.” At which point they proceed to tell a peer all the important facts they remember.
Thumbs up, thumbs down. This is a great way to take an informal assessment of what students understand. The strategy works well at the end of a lesson when you pose questions to assess understanding. Tell students to show thumbs up if they understand and thumbs down if they don’t.
Present information in numerous ways to accommodate visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic learners. Students benefit from seeing the same information in various forms. It gives them time to reflect and develop a more comprehensive view. For example, when teaching students about triangles, students may draw them, see them in various positions on a chart, create them using pipe cleaners or straws, read about them (try reading The Greedy Triangle). Students can also write about the properties of a triangle.
Lastly, allow students opportunities to practice what they know. Students master new skills when they have multiple and varied chances for application. Post experience charts in your room that you develop with students and reflect on strategies learned from lessons. Encourage students to use the charts as reference material to support their ability to apply and practice what they know. Charts might include high frequency words, spelling patterns, math processes, strategies and multiple ways to solve problems, and meaningful sentences that highlight relevant and content-based vocabulary. As you plan your lessons, think about how you will have students process the information.
See also: How to Use Think-Pair-Share to Increase Student Engagement by Judi Fenton