Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Maintaining Student Engagement Beyond the New Year Honeymoon

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,



  1. I really enjoyed the insight into how you are keeping your students engaged in the materials. As a student I know I have always felt this buzz that more often than not, quickly dies off leaving me left bored and not engaged in class. I am wondering if as a teacher you have experienced similar feelings? I can imagine that its easier to be engaged and excited at the start of a new school year. If this is true, what are some ways that you as a teacher avoid burnout when the honeymoon period is done.
    As for the students, have you found that a certain strategy works best? Is it a variety of strategies and switching up that is helpful? Or even is it possible that it is different per student? In an English class how are you successful at incorporating Hands-on learning? I will one day be teaching science and labs are an easy way to do this, but I would like to have students be active in other parts of the class as well.
    I grew up in a time where the only real tech in classroom was a projector at the front of the room. I am concerned that the tech could do more harm than good. I do acknowledge that this is probably due to ignorance of the uses, but it is a fear of mine. Have you had problems using tech such as distraction, or students more excited about the tech than the actual assignment?
    Overall I appreciate all of the tips. This being a problem I experienced as a student is something I will for sure want to do my best to limit once I have my own class room. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for responding. Lots to unpack here. First, I would say that strategies are constantly shifting year to year and day to day. You need to be on your toes because you do not know how the students are going to be that day.

      In regards to hands on learning, the goal is to give students the chance to demonstrate what they know through the creation of an artifact. Check my site for more on Project Based Learning to see some examples.

      As for tech, students will be distracted by anything if the class is not engaging. I use tech extensively in my classes and do not have issues. Boundaries are established and students respect them. Some will push back, but that is normal. That is what students do.

      Everything in the classroom is trial and error over time. As long as a teacher approaches classroom instruction with a growth mindset, they will have a good career.

  2. As a future educator who fears nothing more than being unable to get and keep students engaged in ELA content, I really enjoyed this post. When observing in-service teachers, one of the first questions I ask them for is their strategies for keeping students engaged. Your advice felt very realistic and doable, and I will definitely carry your ideas with me into my career.

    I deeply appreciated your advice that as teachers, we need to make sure that we keep our own passion alive. As a future ELA teacher who absolutely loves ELA and teaching, it is comforting to hear that this passion can make a difference in our students’ experience in our classroom. Your ideas such as unplugging from teacher duties on the weekends and staying connected with other educators are things that I definitely things that I will hold on to. As you said, it is inevitable that there will be “dips” in my energy levels. However, I hope that I will be able to keep my passion for ELA and teaching alive throughout my career so that I am able to pass my love for learning to my students.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post! I think one of the things that I always struggled with as a student (even to this day) is that burn out I feel once we hit that November/December part of the year. Your post gave me an insight into what we cand do as future educators to help navigate this burnout not only for our students, but for ourselves as well.

    I wonder what has been the best practice you've found to keep students minds engaged with the ever increasing nature of social media entering the classroom? How can we structure the lessons to attract their attention span and how do we keep it once we have it? Thank you for all the work you're doing!


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