The start of the school year can bring stress to teachers, but there is a certain type of buzz that the students have about being back. Everything is new. New classes, new lockers, new classmates, new clubs, etc. There is a certain honeymoon period at the start of the year where students are more willing to try new things and get along because they are happy to be back. However, that honeymoon does not last forever. Teachers need to find creative ways to keep students engaged beyond the honeymoon period. There are some tips that can help make the post honeymoon class time better for everyone.
Flexibility is Key
As the year progresses, your students are going to grow and change. As they do, it is important to remember to be flexible. Pay attention to their evolving interests and passions. That cool Youtuber they love might be “super cringe” now. Their hormones are going to change and tempers can become short. Being adaptable during this time is important. Students will need to be shown some grace as they navigate complex emotions. Being flexible with students will allow them to feel those big feelings without fear of punishment. Students will make mistakes and it is important that they are given the space to make them and recover from them. The teacher’s flexibility will really determine how engaged some students will be throughout the year.
Incorporate Hands-On Learning
I always apologize to my students about the first few days of class because they are the most boring days. Too much of the teacher talking and students sitting and listening. If that is how class is always going to be, students are going to check out and the teacher will find it hard to get them back. Hands-on learning is a great way to keep students engaged in class. Students should be up and moving often in classes. It is good for the brain! This article from Edutopia showcases great ways to bring more movement into the classroom. Getting students up from their desk and engaged in the lesson is a wonderful, and easy, way to get them engaged in the classroom. Not every lesson needs to be hands-on, just more than you might traditionally do in the classroom.
Harness the Power of Technology
One of the things I have seen used in the classroom that has really changed students' engagement is how teachers are using Kahoot. Students are super engaged in the quiz games and the classrooms are hopping! Bringing tech into the classroom can be a fun change to the traditional day. It can be some that motivates students to do the work because they know there is a Kahoot later in the week. Using tools like Adobe Express or Canva to let the students create digital projects can help increase the engagement of students in the classroom. These free pieces of technology can really help students stay connected to the class and support their long term learning.
Set Clear, Achievable Goals
One of the things I have seen that have helped students stay engaged in class is to have clear, achievable goals. Sometimes the school year can seem endless and it is hard to get up and tackle the whole year. Breaking that year into small chunks and celebrating when they are completed is a great way to keep students engaged. Throw a mini party when you finish that unit. Reward the students for making it through that exam they were anxious about taking. Make sure the goals are clear and achievable and the students will feel so much better when they get to cross those items off the class to-do list.
Keep Your Own Passion Alive
Don’t forget to keep your fire lit. As a teacher, it can be tough to keep the same energy level up all year. There are going to be dips, but those can be mitigated. One of the ways to do that is to attend conferences, read articles, and stay connected with the other educators. Also, you can completely disconnect from the educational world on weekends and just explore something that you are interested in and share that with students. I recharge by going to a conference and getting flooded by all of these amazing ideas from teachers across the country. I also know teachers who would rather spend their time being lazy in their garden and they come back energized. Find your own passion and let that drive you throughout the year.
The ups and downs of enthusiasm throughout the school year are very normal. Yet, by being proactive, adaptive, and responsive to our students' needs, we can ensure that engagement remains high long after the novelty of the new year fades. Remember, every day is an opportunity to reignite that spark of curiosity and wonder in our students.
Hugs and High Fives,