Engaging Our Learners

How do we engage our youth of today?  What does it take to grab their attention and focus for more than 5 minutes?  Do WE as the teachers need to change our own practices and the way we plan lessons?  What is it going to take to get our students attention in this day and age???

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When I ask myself these questions, the first thing that comes to my mind is how can I structure the lessons and learning in my classroom so my students want to be involved.  Where do I start?  A recent experience I had in teaching made me realize that I need to create a “Growth Mindset” approach to my lessons, so every student feels that they are capable and can grow and learn in my classroom.  The tasks that I have my students participate in need to be meaningful and related to the “Real World”.  Students need to understand why we as teachers are teaching certain topics in subject areas.  Why do we need to know about ecology?  Why is it important to know about the food chain?  How does this affect me as a student?  These are types of questions that I actually got asked a number of times in different units in a recent teaching experience.  Our students need to know WHY we are teaching them specific topics.  We don’t just say the night before class…”Oh I think I might just want to do a lab on dissecting owl pellets tomorrow!”  Our students need to know the underlining reasons why we are focusing on dissecting owl pellets.  Why is it important for them to learn about this?  So #1 for me is make it real for them, connect the learning to real life!

When I look around at all the students in my class (I teach high school) majority of these students have some type of electronic device.  Now these things can be the biggest pain in your side as a teacher, and let me tell you I have had some large side pains from these devices!  I recently have realized that these devices are not going away.  No matter what we do to prevent them from coming into our classrooms, students will find a way to access them.  So as the saying goes, “If you can’t beat em’, join em’!”  I have begun to use these devices that cost our board literally nothing.  Nearly every student in every class I am in has a personal electronic device, and even if they don’t we have iPads, chrome books and laptops for those to use.  My thoughts on this is that since students have these devices and have a very difficult time staying off them, why don’t we incorporate these into our lessons.  I have given lessons where students are to do some of the research during the lecture and are to share their findings with the class.  I couldn’t believe the participation and enthusiasm in this when I asked students to do this.  They race off to try and find what we need to know and are enjoying it, but also using their electronic device in a positive way!  Wow!  This is a win win you would think.  If we are going to use these devices we still need to set down boundaries and rules with them so they are used appropriately in class.  So #2 for me is USE THEM, incorporate electronic devices into the learning. 

Another way to get students attention is to get to know them, try and understand where they are coming from, and really hear them, LISTEN!  Students want to be seen as individuals not as a group, so by getting to know them makes a big difference in the way they see me too, as their teacher.  Taking the time at the beginning of the semester and getting to know each individual student will show them you care and that you want them to be successful.  Finding out how each student will be more successful from them personally, will really show the students that you want to help in any way you can to help them achieve to the best of their ability.  Setting up one on one conferences just to chat about student progress and how they are feeling in my class is a strategy I have used for a number of years now.  This helps the students get to know me, and know that I am here to help them succeed and that I am cheering them on.  My goal is to create a positive atmosphere and show my students excitement and enthusiasm for what we are learning.  By creating positive relationships with my students will help us as a class to achieve this goal!  So #3 for me is taking the time to get to know each student.

I have had a class website for a while now but students don’t seem to be accessing it like I would like them too.  My idea is to get them to use it more and refer to it, and to use it daily in class time.  I want to connect our lessons to our website, make it interactive, and engaging so students can use their devices to access the website during class.  I want to be able to set up my class like a blended learning class, where some of our learning is done online on our website or a D2L where we have more options for online learning.  I want to make the D2L part super exciting and engaging so students want to log on and participate in the learning.  I am open to new ideas on this topic and how to make my classroom more engaging, if anyone has ideas that work for them I would love to hear them!  If you have any thoughts you would like to share about my post please feel free!