The 12 Best Student Engagement Strategies to Ignite Learning in 2021

How to Increase Student Engagement — The Guide

  • Why do Student Engagement Strategies Matter?
  • 4 Easy Wins
  • 4 Long Plays
  • 4 for Online Learning

Why do Student Engagement Strategies Matter?

It can be easy to write off disengaged students as unsavable, or even to write off ‘student engagement’ as a concept for teachers with more time on their hands. But by taking a dive into this topic, you’ve shown motivation to motivate. And that’s motivational!

  • 53% of American students are not-engaged or actively disengaged in lessons. (Gallup)
  • By the end of the 2020 academic year, 1.3 million American students had stopped engaging because of the switch to distanced learning. (Remind)
  • Engaged students are 2.5x more likely to conclude that they get excellent grades in school. (Gallup)

Student Engagement Strategies — 4 Easy Wins

The four techniques below are the quickest and easiest ways to capture student interest. They require very little work to set up and they’re easily understandable for all levels of your students.

#1 — Use Student Opinions

Polls are powerful, because polls connect your subject matter with the centre of any young person’s universe — themselves.

  • The question is all about them.
  • Students can instantly see how their opinion stacks up with others’ around them.
  • You, as a teacher, can learn about aspects of your students that you didn’t know before.

#2 — Get ’em Talking

There’s one learner engagement strategy that’s more comprehensive than a poll. A full-blown discussion.

#3 — Breed Competition with a Quiz

The overhanging force of competition is absolute gold dust for teachers. Unfortunately, aside from a haphazard and ultimately meaningless star reward system, competition as a student engagement strategy is still wildly underused.

  • Keep it to around 10 questions — Let your students get into it, but don’t let them tire of it.
  • Mix the difficulty — Keep everyone on their toes.
  • Use technology — In personal experience, pen and paper quizzes are hard to manage with a big class. Try running your quiz on professional edtech software.

#4 — Set up Q&A Checkpoints

One of the biggest contributors to disengagement isn’t to do with behaviour, it’s to do with comprehension. No matter the quality of the subject material, if your students don’t understand it, you’re going to be looking out over a room of zoned-out faces.

  • They’re anonymous — Students can remain nameless and ask anything without fear.
  • They’re detailed — Students have time to thoughtfully lay out what they don’t understand.
  • They’re organised — All answers are written, can be sorted into different categories and remain permanent.

Ignite real learning.

Get everything above, and more, for 100% free. Download the full student engagement template and get students participating live in class.

Student Engagement Strategies — 4 Long Plays

These four techniques are a bit of a long game. They’re small changes to your teaching approach, and therefore require time to understand and set up. Still, once you’ve got them in the locker, these can be some of the most engaging techniques to use in the classroom.

#5 — Let them Teach it

One of the tragedies of classroom disengagement is the fact that 85% of school assignments are too rigid to allow for higher thinking skills. This, despite the fact that thinking higher than a restrictive syllabus is often what makes lessons engaging.

  • Do it gradually. There’s a reason this is a ‘long play’ student engagement strategy. Students need time and practice to teach anything, even to a small group. Space out the practice time throughout the year.
  • Keep it timed. Give them a brief time slot to teach, so as not to overwhelm them. When they’re teaching, keep an eye on the clock so that they understand that time is a crucial factor in teaching.
  • Raise your expectations. Students are often capable of way more than we give them credit for. Give them a challenge and watch them meet it.

#6 — Mix up your Style

The many approaches to learning styles is one of the fundamentals of teacher training. We know them, sure, but as much as we may think we appeal to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners, the chances are that we’re failing at least one of those core student groups.

  • Illustrating concepts, taking notes, watching videos, playing quizzes — (Visual)
  • Listening to podcasts, having discussions, reading aloud, creating music — (Auditory)
  • Doing experiments, creating something physical, roleplay, moving around the classroom — (Kinaesthetic)

#7 — Make it Relevant

When I was teaching English in Vietnam, I noticed that all textbooks exclusively referenced British or American culture. According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), because my Vietnamese students found nothing relevant to their culture in lessons, they were much more likely to tune out.

#8 — Give them a Choice

In the case of older students, there are two things that all activities need to have: relevance (which we just discussed) and choice.

  • Activities — Provide a bunch of activities as an exercise, then let students choose.
  • Structure — Lay out the structure of the lesson and let them choose how they want to proceed.
  • Decor — Let them have a say on the layout of the classroom.

Student Engagement Strategies — 4 for Online Learning

Online learning is becoming more and more widespread, but keeping students motivated across distances seems to be getting tougher and tougher. Here are 4 tips to try something different in your remote classroom.

#9 — Embrace the Technology

When pretty much all lessons went online in 2020, there was an understandable tendency for teachers to stick with the offline methodology that they knew. That have flown in the early stages; it won’t fly now.

  1. Canva 🖌️
    An easy way to create images, posters, brochures, pamphlets etc. Canva has a huge library of templates and premade elements to build on.
  2. Miro 🗒️
    A communal whiteboard that students can use to brainstorm, illustrate thinking processes and design solutions with each other at the same time.
  3. FlipGrid 📹
    A video platform where teachers can pose questions and receive video responses from students.
  4. AhaSlides 📊
    An interactive presentation maker that allows students to host a topic and create live polls, quizzes and thought sessions about it.

#10 — Flip the Script

‘Flipped learning’ refers to students learning concepts at home, then using class time to actively discuss and solve problems related to the learned concept. Think of it as the usual schoolwork and homework relationship, just… flipped.

  • In class, students can participate at their own pace. Lower and higher ability students can concentrate on tasks at the right level for them.
  • More autonomy and freedom of ownership of their studies puts students in control — a hugely motivating factor.
  • Flipped learning gives students something to do, rather than treating them as passive ingesters of information. This sets your lessons apart from other standard lessons throughout the school day and encourages students to get involved.
  1. Before the lesson: Create a shared folder of topic material for students (videos, podcasts, taped lectures, reading resources, etc.) and tell them to progress through each material.
  2. At the start of the lesson: Give students a quick quiz to gauge understanding of the topic, then group each student by their level of understanding.
  3. During the lesson: Present each group with stimulating activities (discussions, collaborations, problem solving) in order to consolidate understanding.

#11 — Take a Gallery Walk

How much more motivated would you be if you knew that your work was going to be shown to your peers? Probably quite a bit. That’s the idea behind a gallery walk.

  • It increases student motivation through their inherent sense of competition.
  • It increases student focus as they’re viewing works from their peers, rather than someone unrelated to them.
  • It increases student freedom of expression, which is always a positive for motivation.

#12 — Never Forsake Group Work

Of all the learning formats that fell by the wayside in the big migration to distanced learning, perhaps the biggest casualty was group work.

  • Give them access to file sharing software, like Google Drive.
  • Give them access to kanban board (task assigning) software, such as Trello.
  • Use ‘breakout rooms’ on Zoom and other video calling software to simulate real-world group work.
  • Break large projects into multiple small tasks to be completed in groups.

Get hands raised in every lesson.

AhaSlides helps you boost student participation, by giving your students a voice. Create a dialogue today.



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