The slow crawl to spring break is in full swing or has begun. Teachers are feeling overwhelmed, and the kids are ready to climb the walls, which means there is probably a lot of tuning out happening in your classroom. So how do you keep students engaged when you are running on fumes, and they are ready to run out of your room? Well, it’s time to work smarter, not harder.
Moving your daily routine from a system where most of the output comes from you and the input comes from the students, to a system that is reversed, puts the responsibility for learning back in the hands of your students. They are the captains of the ships that sail the seas you have created for them. Hopefully, by pushing the focus away from your teaching to their learning, they will emerge as more focused, driven learners than they may normally be this time of year. If you need help figuring out what this might look like in your classroom, check out the tips below.
- Deconstruct, re-imagine, and innovate. Let’s face it, many of our students love to poke holes in what we are teaching. It seems that some are just waiting to pounce on the tiniest teaching missteps we present in our content or instruction. So why not purposely give them content, a lesson, or a problem that they can pull apart and make better? I am always amazed at the lesson, lab, or project ideas that students come up with, that are often much better than I had originally planned. Having the opportunity for your lesson to be the one the teacher uses instead of his or her own is definitely a great motivator for the majority of students!
- Brainstorm, collaborate, and compromise. If having students completely take over your lesson planning seems like a little too much, then perhaps share what units they have coming up and learning objectives you must cover as their teacher. Give them the opportunity to brainstorm and share ideas that they feel might help meet their learning goals and your teaching goals. By allowing students to get in on the conversation and feel that their ideas matter will make them far more receptive to what you present.
- Tinker, design, and create. When it really seems like they can’t stay in their seats, it’s time to get doing. Give your students more opportunities to do hands-on work. It may get a little crazy, but sometimes we all need to get that energy out and create something. I always think back to a day where the power went out at school. All of expertly crafted SMARTBoard lessons went out the window, and I had no textbooks to utilize, so I pulled some craft materials out of storage, gave my students and engineering challenge, and let them go! The outcomes of that day were far better than my original lesson.
If you have the opportunity to weave some of these tips into your lesson planning and teaching, you will definitely be surprised at how the energy in your students changes from one of restlessness to one of passion. You will need to lay some ground rules and have a bit of patience, but the payoff in student engagement is well worth it, along with your sanity until spring break finally rolls in!
What are some ways you use to engage students during the spring months? Please share in the comments below!