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Measuring Classroom Engagement: Simple Tips for K-5

Measuring classroom engagement can be overwhelming. Classroom engagement is the act of lighting little fires of curiosity. But how do we know if the flame is burning bright or just flickering out like a match? Well, you don’t unless you start measuring your classroom engagement. While this seems like quite the task, I’ve got your back! Today, we will unpack how to measure classroom engagement in your classroom. 

What Type of Engagement Are We Lighting? 

There are different types of engagement in a classroom. You hear about behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement, but what do these actually mean? Let’s dive into each one to know what we are measuring before we break out the ruler. 


Behavior Engagement 

Behavior engagement is easy to see. Simply, it’s what students are doing. If a student is practically jumping out of his/her seat to answer a question, likely, they are behaviorally engaged. To encourage this, you can create a chart to track these behaviors. If one student has raised his/her hand ten times this week, chances are, he/she is onto something. 

Emotional Engagement 

When we are measuring emotional engagement, you have to put on your detective hat. With this type of engagement, you must piece together clues by paying attention to attitudes, actions, and feelings. You can find several clues by having a one-on-one conference with students or by sending out a quick survey for older students. With both of these techniques, you’d be surprised what you find. 

Cognitive Engagement 

Out of all the types of engagement, this one is my favorite. Cognitive engagement is the student's desire to know more. If a student keeps researching volcanoes long after the project ends you have cognitive engagement. One way to foster cognitive engagement is to encourage extra steps or give your students time to “Deep Dive” into ideas they have learned previously. 

What Does Measuring Classroom Engagement Look Like? 

During the normal 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. school day, it can be hard to pause and just have a heart-to-heart. So, what does measuring classroom engagement look like? Here are some simple ways to gauge where students are at. 

Classroom Participation 

Looking around your room, you’ll see different types of students. Ones that are practically launching themselves out of their desks to those who are trying to become one with their desk. If they are trying to launch themselves out of their desk, they are engaged. But for those who are trying to become invisible, we need to get them talking! One way to do this is to make a chart to give scores for participation. Even if this doesn’t go in the grade book, you’ll have data to support academic growth. Plus, you’ll be able to talk to parents in a more objective way if it comes to that. 


Using a participation rubric, you want to score your students throughout a lesson based on their class participation. This doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply score students from 0-4 in a notebook that you have on hand. If you need to, you can write a little note. For example, you might say, “0-student did not participate when prompted.” Now, you don’t have to do this for every single student for every single lesson. Instead, throughout the day, give each student a score. It doesn’t have to be during the same lesson. It just needs to happen. 

Use Learning Resources for Measuring Classroom Engagement 

You can track how often your students use resources like the library, computer lab, or educational software with ease. Most of these online tools have this tool built in, so it’s easy for you to use. To encourage students to use these tools, you can make it a competition to win “Top Researcher of the Week” or “Reading Rocket.” Fun little competitions can increase engagement, especially for your more competitive students. 

Additionally, you can encourage students to use these resources during a “Deep Dive” into a given topic. If you have books, articles, videos, or anything that would help students dive into concepts you’re learning about in class, they can get some extra time using these helpful resources while learning more about a topic. If you are providing these resources, you can gauge if you need to change up the types of resources you are using based on the most popular activity. 

Encourage Peer Collaboration 

Watching students collaborate is a beautiful dance. When they’re in sync, amazing learning happens. However, when they aren’t, well, it’s more like bumper cars, but it’s still a chance to learn! You can use group projects for measuring engagement in class. During work time, pay attention to who is taking the lead, who follows well, and who is struggling to engage. By paying attention to these dynamics, you can tell who needs more help. 

A great time to make some quick observations is during center rotations. When students work in groups of two or three, it’s easy to see who is stepping up and who is happy just following along. When you have center activities like the ones in our math and literacy bundles for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade, students are expected to take turns, work together, and share knowledge. Because these are easy to prep and easy to analyze classroom engagement, they can be great resources in the classroom. This ease makes it simple to reconfigure groups if collaboration is a struggle. 


The 4 Sides to Measuring Classroom Engagement 

We talked about the four different types of engagement, but there are four different ways we need to consider measuring classroom engagement, including: 

  • Academically 
  • Behaviorally 
  • Psychologically 
  • Socially 

Measuring Classroom Engagement Academically 

Academics is all about the grades, not just the assessment. When you are measuring classroom engagement based on academics, make sure you pay attention to in-class responses, homework quality, center work, and attentiveness during lessons. Not all students are great test takers. So, these aren’t always the best measuring tools to use when looking at classroom engagement. Don’t be afraid to get creative and find ways for students to show their work beyond a formal test. 

Measuring Engagement with Behavior 

There are always the basic behavior rules like keeping your hands and feet to yourself. However, behaviors follow the classroom flow by listening, sharing, and following classroom rules. When students aren’t actively engaged, I like to use Total Physical Response. 

Total Physical Response is a way to deliver lessons that involve kids in the learning process by getting them up and moving, using hand gestures, doing call and response, and more! When students actively engage in their learning, it gives them less time to be off task or not behaving. When they are off task, they stick out, and it’s easy to address the problem and move on. 

Focusing on Psychological Measuring 

When you work on the psychological aspect of measuring classroom engagement, you might have to put on your detective hat because mental and emotional states are hard to measure. One way you can measure this is through student journals or even anonymous surveys. You can also use morning check-ins with your students. When you check in with students, you can see their feelings and maybe head off any negative feelings before school begins. However, morning check-ins will only help measure classroom engagement if you have a positive classroom community. 

Socially Measuring Classroom Engagement 

We are all social creatures; I mean, look at social media! Social engagement is about friendships, conflicts, and the world of the playground. All of these are critical skills students learn. You can measure this type of engagement by looking at participation in classroom discussions and group activities and by checking out the playground dynamics. You can watch how students interact with one another and use teachable moments to help students navigate social skills. 


The best part about this type of engagement is you don’t need fancy gadgets. You can use a thumbs-up, thumbs-down survey, or a “hand check” where students say where they are by putting up a number 1-5. If your students are shy, you can always have an anonymous jar where students can ask questions or make comments. 

Measuring classroom engagement isn’t an exact science. You’ll have to figure out what works best for your classroom based on your own intuition, observations, and a bit of data. Eventually, you will find the perfect mix where curiosity meets opportunity, and everything will click. However, these strategies are a great place to start! 

Until Next Time…

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