Maximizing student engagement is important for a variety of reasons: it can be a tool for classroom management, it can ensure students are getting the most out of your lesson, and can even be used as an informal assessment. But how do we really motivate our students to get involved in our lessons? Here are some best practices that I have found to be successful in my second grade classroom. 

  1. Be Excited

    Our students are always watching us and looking to us for guidance. The same goes for learning. If you act excited about the lesson, your students will most likely be excited too. Don’t tell my students this but I do not like teaching math. How many days can you really spend on number lines? But despite my personal feelings, I start each lesson by saying “ I am so excited today because in math we are…” or “ Today is an exciting day because we get to learn about…” Once the students pick up and feel my excitement, they start to feel excited too. It’s contagious!

  2. Get Personal:

    Students are more ready to learn from people they have connections too. I try to make connections to what we are learning to my own life and the lives of my students. This serves as multiple purposes. One, it allows my students to get to know me better. They feel more comfortable in the classroom and see me as someone who is also a life-long learner. For example, in the beginning of the year when we are learning how to figure out what kinds of books we enjoy reading, I am honest with my students that I prefer fiction books over nonfiction. I will talk about my favorite books and talk about books that I have read that I didn’t like. Secondly, making connections to students’ lives grabs their attention. Right now, my students are very into Pokemon so I will put different Pokemon into my word problems during math. They love it!

  3. Move:

    When possible, I try to get my students up and moving. Sometimes it means I play a song or video that relates to the curriculum and sometimes it means we move to work in different groups around the room. I like to do a lot of scavenger hunts in my classroom. We move around the room for items that have a long o sound or walk around the room and look for examples of liquids or try to find five objects that measure 4 inches. We also do centers which help get the students up and moving. One of my favorite activities is posting task cards around the room and giving students answer keys and clipboards. They go from task card to task card and then we check the answers together. These kids are little and need to be out of their seats. It gives them a chance to get their bodies going and interact with each other while they are learning.  

  4. Cultivate a Safe Space:

    It is so important to create a safe space for your students. Students should feel that it is okay to make mistakes. Students will be much more engaged and willing to participate in learning, if they know it’s okay to make mistakes. I do this by talking about my own mistakes (e.g. all my students know how bad at spelling I am), and discussing mistakes when they pop up during a lesson. My students know that we celebrate mistakes because they help us to learn. This is something that has to be established early in the school year because it helps set the tone of the classroom. 

These are just a few best practices I use in my own classroom but I know there could be many others and, in the long run, the best way to engage your students is to figure out what works best for you. But, don’t be afraid to try out different ideas! There are so many inspiring educators in your own school network that could spark some inspiration for you. Bottomline, the more engaged your students are, the more they are learning and the more they will love coming to school.  

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Chrissy Talbot

Chrissy Talbot

Elementary School Teacher

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.