The big buzzword in education today is ENGAGEMENT. When we see yawning faces and distracted doodlers, it can be hard to know what to do! While we all know engaging students is important, it’s not the easiest thing to do when you have several different types of students in your classroom. Here at Farrah Henley Education, we have found four ways to boost levels of engagement in the elementary classroom. Keep reading to find out how to make your classroom a vibrant learning stage.
Increasing Levels of Engagement in the Elementary Classroom
How engaged are your students? When you are teaching, the levels of engagement in the elementary classroom need to be on the up and up. Now, this doesn’t mean YOU have to be the entertainment. Engaging students simply means you are giving them activities that are more than just drill and kill. When students are engaged, they learn more. The more students learn, the easier your job becomes. Here are four ways you can boost levels of engagement in the elementary classroom:
Want to know more? Learn about each one by reading the rest of this article.
Using Drama to Increase Engagement
In your classroom, you are the director and your students are all the stars. Together, you are making a masterpiece of learning by acting out what you’re learning. When you use drama in your classroom, you engage all of your students because it is a very active way to learn. What can this look like? Let me show you.
Drama in Action
You can use drama in your classroom in a variety of ways. One of the things I liked to do in my social studies lessons was to transform my classroom into a time machine. This doesn’t require an elaborate set up. Let students use their imaginations. For this, students put on their explorer hats and students go back in time and act out key events that happened. When students are up and acting out the various events, the room starts to buzz. No one is thinking about the clock because they are too busy putting together a little play. These plays or enactments can be shown to the rest of the class as well. If you need to teach students how to do this, don’t be afraid to break out Crazy Professor or show them a video of different wars being reenacted.
One of the biggest things I have learned about using drama in the classroom is that the power of props is strong. If you have a few hats, scarves, or some DIY props, it can really elevate the whole experience for students. Plus, if you’re tech savvy, you can use green screens to transport your class into different worlds. Students will love this!
Put Your Students in the Situation
Adventure always gets students excited! To put your students in a situation and increase levels of engagement in the elementary classroom, try trying your room into a newsroom or expedition camp. This level of engagement puts students right into the scenario or situation. Plus, it’s both educational and exciting.
How to Use Situation
Situation involved transforming your classroom. So when students walk in they are walking into a scene. Personally, I have transformed my classroom into a courtroom, laboratory, and even a jungle! When students walked into my classroom they were scientists, lawyers, or explorers ready to solve any problem.
While redesigning your classroom might sound like a lot of work, you can put some of it onto your students by having them help. When students get to be involved in the setup, they are more invested which also increases the level of engagement in the elementary classroom. In addition, you’ll be absolutely amazed at what your students’ imaginations can do with a cardboard box and some paint!
Let Students Make a Choice
When it comes to levels of engagement in the elementary classroom, choice has to be one of the best methods. This helps students take more ownership in their assignment, project topics, center activities, and beyond. When students have ownership, they are more engaged.
How to Provide Choice and Increase Levels of Engagement in the Elementary Classroom
One way I like to incorporate choice into my classroom is with a choice board. This wasn’t out all the time; it was mainly used when it worked with the standards or concepts we were working on that week. During certain times, students could choose from a range of activities, assignments, or even seating plans. Having flexible seating and letting students where to sit can be a simple way to have choice in your classroom. When I gave students choices, it was like a choose your own learning adventure. With the choice, students gained a sense of responsibility and self-management.
While choice can be academic, you can extend it beyond academics as well. Giving students the choice to have different roles in the classroom, for example, gives them purpose and skyrockets levels of engagement. One year, I had students apply for classroom jobs instead of assigning and rotating them. The application process was a lesson plan in writing and speaking. Throughout the year, if someone wanted a different job, they could simply apply for it. I also gave performance reviews to add more real world experience to the jobs.
The Gift of Opportunity
Remember the moment you found your passion? Giving students the OPPORTUNITY to explore various interests is giving them a gateway to a lifetime of moments where they find a passion. When students have the opportunity to explore and find out what they love, they become invested and the level of engagement increases drastically.
How to Give Student Opportunities
The best way to give students opportunities is to give them some time every week for “Passion Projects.” During this time, my classroom was buzzing with all sorts of learning. Students were doing art, coding, working on environmental science experiments and more! The choice was all theirs. I was simply there to witness imagination and problem solving skills blooming. Giving students these opportunities not only boosts levels of engagement in the elementary classroom, it also gives students a safe space to explore interests.
Another way to implement opportunity is through guest speakers and presentations. If you invite local professionals or older students in to talk about passion projects, your students will love it. These are real-world examples of what passion projects can turn into, and it adds to engagement.
Implementing Drama, Situation, Choice, and Opportunity
You can implement any of these four ways to increase engagement one at a time. However, why not combine them all? One of my most successful units combined all four levels of engagement. During this lesson, we explored environmental science by turning the classroom into an engaged rainforest creating a situation. Then students had roles as biologists and conservationists which incorporated drama. Throughout the unit, they chose from a range of activities giving them choice one of them being a “Save the Forest” campaign. This campaign allowed them to tap into their unique skills and interests which gave them the opportunity to explore.
When you implement these levels of engagement in any classroom, you can turn any subject into an adventure, any lesson into a memory, and any classroom into a community. Isn’t that the goal of teaching? To make learning so magical, meaningful, and memorable that students never want to stop.
How to Make it Happen on Budget
I know you’re probably thinking that there is not enough time or MONEY to make this happen. You’re right. You have a budget you have to follow and we are already using our money far too often to fund our classrooms. You don’t have to have all the fancy gadgets, and you don’t have to do this for every single lesson. Most of the time when I used these levels of engagement, they were lessons that took more than 30 to 45 minutes to set up on a Thursday afternoon and were Friday specials. Students would help clean up at the end of the day on Friday making it much easier.
You can cut down on the cost and make magic happen with simple cardboard, some paint, and your students’ imaginations. Plus, we live in a world full of technology! There are so many free or low-cost online resources you can use to amplify your Choice and Opportunity levels. From free virtual field trips to backdrops and more, you can really transform your classroom with technology with a few simple clicks.
If you’re looking for more affordable and low-prep room transformations, my friend Linday at The Lifetime Learner has you covered. There are so many amazing room transformations that are perfect for the teacher on a budget. On her site, she gives you step by step instructions, shopping lists, and activities you can use for lessons. These are simple and super popular and will increase levels of engagement in the elementary classroom easily.
Transforming your level of classroom engagement in the elementary classroom doesn’t have to be hard. You can do this by adding some drama, creating fun situations, offering choices, and giving students opportunities to explore, and not break the bank. Just be a little creative and let students’ imaginations soar. If you do, your room will be buzzing with critical thinking, and you’ll be creating lifelong learners.