4 Ways to Create an Engaging Learning Environment
Keeping your students engaged in the classroom is a task within itself. With constant distractions ranging from cell phones to disruptive students, it can be a constant struggle to keep your students interested in your lessons. We know you want the best for your class-- and that includes making sure they grasp all the knowledge they can during their time at school.
That's why we've come up with 4 ways to turn your classroom into a space that keeps your students captivated. Balancing fun and learning is not always easy, and these 5 solutions can help make your classroom the home of both.
Let's start with the basics
When it comes to an engaging classroom, it's important to recognize what you're starting with. What are the current distractions in your space? Electronics? Other students? Or are your lessons simply you speaking at your students, instead of getting them interacting with the material and each other?
It can be intimidating to say your classroom needs to be more engaging, so start by making a list of all of the places where you can improve. This will help you visually see what you need to work on, and will make this process much less daunting.
1. Create a Safe Learning Environment
Students won't engage in a space where they don't feel comfortable, period.
Build a comfortable classroom experience from the get go by having a discussion with students at the beginning of the school year on how to act during classroom discussions, when others give answers, etc. Let them know you appreciate all ideas, thoughts, and opinions no matter how crazy they are. Give a few examples of this at the beginning of the year by suggesting a few wacky ideas yourself in class discussions. This will help show students that it's fine to throw out their craziest thoughts, and will begin to grow a space where the quietest of students will see that any answer is welcome. The reason for many students not participating is their fear of being wrong in front of the class. There is no way to fully eliminate this fear, but managing it is possible by encouraging every answer-- whether it is correct or incorrect. Having your students come up with a code of conduct that states how to respond to the ideas of others is a great way to get students engaged and have them write their own rules. You can learn more about the power of the student voice and how to encourage it here.
2. Get Interactive with Hands on Activities
Students can't be distracted if they're too busy to be distracted.
When it comes to captivating your students, it doesn't have to get complicated. Hands on activities are the perfect way to engage students by having them interact with the learning material. These activities can be as easy as playing a game or having them put on a demonstration as groups. Find lessons throughout your week that you can teach in the form of a hands on activity, and don't feel bad about repeating an activity for different lessons.
Educational tools are a great way to make a classroom more exciting. mcSquares helps increase participation by cultivating collaboration. Take a look a the full mcSquares lineup of products here and get your students interacting in the classroom, whether as individuals or groups!
Check out one of blog posts below to see how you can incorporate hands on activities into your lessons.
3. Set your Students up for Success
Students are not professional collaborators. But they can be.
Set students up for success in your classroom, and you'll eliminate frustration and fear that distract from learning. You can't expect students to automatically know how you would like them to participate, how to to collaborate well, or how to kindly disagree with other students. Sometimes you need to go back to the basics, and the beginning of the school year is a great opportunity to do just that. A few ways to do that are:
1) Lay out guidelines for your students on participation-- ask them what they think is fair, and get them involved in the discussion. Laying guidelines means your expectations are out in the open, and we decrease any "surprises" for students on your participation desires while also encouraging them to get involved in class discussion.
2) Before you throw them into group projects, help them understand how to collaborate and work with others in their group. Just because you expect them to know how to work well with others, doesn't mean they do.
3) Teach your students how to respond when they disagree with ideas, such as saying "I liked that (student) did (this), and I wonder if they could have also done (this)". Not getting worked up over disagreements is a skill many adults don't have, so don't anticipate your students to being perfect at it.
4. Get your Students Involved in the Learning Process
Let your students take on responsibility for their own learning.
Creating a space where your students feel like their voice is heard, while also showing them all opinions are welcome, is key to creating an engaging learning environment. If you give your students a chance to choose how they receive their education, they will in turn feel empowered and like their opinion matters in a world where they often feel powerless.
Although certain lessons may need to be taught a certain way, giving occasional decisions to the class, whether picking a game or the day a test is on, can help them feel like they're in charge. This helps your students feel like they have a voice in their own education, and gives them a sense of responsibility while encouraging them to speak. For example, your class is much more likely to participate in a game they choose as opposed to one you have picked for them. Giving them choices grows self worth and the feeling of importance, which in turn encourages them to speak up. Letting your students have a say in a space where they often don't creates a welcoming atmosphere, and will make the entire class feel like they can take their education into their own hands.
In the end...
...it's difficult to encourage students to participate of their own free will. Classrooms are often spaces where students feel powerless and may not be comfortable speaking up. By creating a space that is welcoming of all opinions and answers, while utilizing different learning techniques and empowering your students, your lessons can help foster a space where students are engaged and empowered by their education.