Keep your students engaged and excited — whether they’re learning online or in the classroom — with these five ideas.Apr 12, 2021
After a full school year of learning during a pandemic, it’s safe to say keeping your students engaged can feel draining. Add to that the excitement of summer break, and you may find that your students are increasingly becoming less interested in what’s happening in class. Here, we offer five tips you can use to keep your students engaged and energized for class both online and in the classroom.
1. Make the Work Student-centered
Over the last nine or 10 months, your students have become increasingly dependent on you. You put together thorough lesson plans, developed aligned sub-objectives, and put together the rubric by which they were graded. Turn the tables by challenging your students to put together their own summer experience curriculum. Help them decide what they would like to learn, do, or accomplish by the end of the next three months. Teach them how to use backwards planning to identify small wins or milestones they can mark to ensure progress.
Here’s an example: By the end of the summer, I want my dog to be able to shake hands. Task your students with identifying the final assessment (in this case, the dog shaking hands) and the milestones needed to get there (getting the dog to sit, focus, lift its paw, and finally, shake).
Bonus? They’re also increasing their project management skills.
2. Create Collaborative Learning Opportunities
When two or more students attempt to learn something together, they’re able to leverage each other’s strengths and resources to develop solutions, explain concepts better, and promote interpersonal skills. Try facilitating a Socratic seminar — a structured discussion with open-ended questions based on a particular text. This can take place in a classroom (virtual or in-person) within the context of a discussion, where students must listen closely to each other’s comments and explain their own divergent thinking to seek deeper understanding. If you’re working with students asynchronously, you could have students film their responses and post them via Flipgrid or Marco Polo.
3. Give Timely Feedback
If you’re giving students consistent and timely feedback, they know you haven’t checked out either. This might be verbally in the classroom or virtually using the comments feature in Google Docs. This tool also allows you to create action items and assign them to the student.
4. Preview What’s Coming
Partner with a teacher in the next grade to get an understanding of what students will learn when they return from summer vacation. Are there opportunities for incorporating these upcoming concepts or topics in these last few weeks of the school year? Invite the teacher (and maybe a few outgoing students) to participate as guest speakers, which can be hosted in the classroom or via a virtual platform like Zoom. If there are multiple content areas or teachers, create breakout rooms that students can move to for smaller, more intimate conversations.
5. Tap Into the Power of Reflection and Portfolio-building
Use this time with your students to identify a few assignments that they enjoyed working on and help them articulate what key skills or objectives they learned. Task students with putting together a portfolio, hard copy or online, that they can share with others to help them build confidence in articulating their strengths. When students practice this skill sooner than later, they gain confidence in themselves and can lean into their own expertise when working in teams.
Another bonus? This will help them build their resume and cover letter-writing skills down the line.