One of the greatest challenges that a teacher faces is engaging their students in the lessons that they are delivering. This article covers some of the best ways to engage students in lessons and ensure that they make the most of their learning opportunities. These include learning from other teachers, being prepared, relating the subject to them, understanding learning style and ability level, understanding the interests of students and breaking the lesson down into smaller parts.
One of the greatest concerns for any teacher is how they will engage students in their lessons. When students are engaged they will listen, they will be interested, they will interact well and, most importantly of all, they will learn. Students who are not engaged in the lessons will show a lack of interest, will not listen, will not learn and they may even disrupt the learning of others. In spite of the importance of engaging students in lessons, while some teachers have a natural ability and skill in engaging students, many teachers are not sure of how to go about this. Here are some tips on how a teacher can engage students in a lesson.
Be Aware of Ability and Skill Level
One of the main causes of lack of engagement within the classroom environment is boredom. This can often stem from the lesson not being suited to the ability level of the students in that class. Either the lesson is pitched too high and the students find the work too difficult and give up, or it is pitched too low and the students are not challenged. This can be a difficult balancing act, especially if it is a mixed ability class. One way to get around this problem is to aim at the middle level of the class. Another, possibly better solution is to provide tasks that increase in difficulty. For students who complete the task to the end it is wise to have some extension tasks that are more challenging.
Plan Lessons for All Learning Styles
Everybody has a preferred learning style and students will engage best when learning through their preferred learning style. Some people are visual learners, other are auditory learners and some are kinesthetic learners. While many students only have one preferred learning style, there are others that learn best with a combined approach. It is highly unlikely that there will be a classroom of students who all have the same learning style, unless you are doing small group learning or one-to-one tutoring. Therefore, it is important to use a variety of different methods and techniques in your teaching. For example, don’t just rely on you standing at the front of the classroom giving instructions. It is much better to use a combination handouts, practical activities, visual tools to support the lesson that you are delivering.
Break the Lesson Down
Backtracking to the boredom issue, a whole lesson of doing exactly the same thing can be boring for students and they will disengage. A tip for preventing this from happening is to break the lesson down into smaller tasks. Typically, a lesson will have a starter, the main body of the lesson and a plenary. It is within the main body of the lesson that tasks can be broken down.
Know the Interests of the Students
While professionalism is required at all times, it does no harm at all to be able to relate to the students. By knowing what they are interested in and showing an interest in this they will find it easier to relate to you. This can often help in getting students to relate to you.
Learn from Other Teachers
Younger, less experienced teachers can learn tactics and methods of engaging students from those teachers with more experience. Experienced teachers will have tried and tested ways of engaging students and maintaining their interest in lessons. They will also have experience of what hasn’t worked for them. However, what does or doesn’t work for one teacher doesn’t always apply to another teacher. Experienced teachers can also learn from younger teachers as they will have fresh ideas. It may be possible to create a scheme within your workplace where you can observe each other with the other teacher’s consent. Alternatively, other members of staff within your department may agree to mutual observation.
Relate the Subject to Them
One difficulty that many students have that may lead to them not engaging is that they cannot relate the subject to themselves and therefore see it as unimportant, unnecessary or boring. It is important to be able to relate their learning to real life situations that they may be in. For example, calculating area may be a topic in mathematics. This can be related to buying carpets or decorating; a skill that they will actually need in adult life. Similarly, percentages can be related to sales and promotions in shops.
If students suspect that you don’t know what you are talking about, they will immediately disengage. Therefore, it is important that you are prepared for the lesson. However, you will not always know the answer to every question that you are asked. In this instance it is important that you are honest and say that you do not know. Use it as an opportunity to research a topic together with the student. Just make sure that you know the answer by the next lesson!