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5 Easy Ways to Increase Student Engagement K-5

When it comes to electrifying your classroom, what kind of teacher are you? Are you the teacher who has all the technology know how? The artsy teacher who has the Pinterest perfect classroom on a budget? Or are you “just” a passionate teacher who loves a good hands-on activity? If you said yes to any of the above, then I have some awesome actionable strategies that will increase student engagement in more ways than one! Keep reading to learn more. 


What is Student Engagement? 

Student engagement is way more than attendance and nodding heads. Students need to be engaged emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. When students are emotionally connected to their learning, they are invested. Cognitive engagement means they are understanding, analyzing,and applying information instead of just memorizing. Finally, behavioral engagement (the most visible of them all), you can see students being active participants in class activities, they are present, and get involved in extracurricular activities. 

Before we tap into strategies to increase student engagement, make sure you check out how to increase emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagement by checking out this article

#1: Make It Real and Relevant to Increase Student Engagement

When you are planning your lessons, make sure there are real-world applications. By doing this, students have an easier buy in because they can make a connection to something in the world they already know. Need some ideas for connecting your lessons to the real world? Check out the following: 

  1. Connect your math lesson to budgeting for a family vacation or a day out with family. 
  2. You can explore science, specifically physics, by looking at skateboarding tricks. 
  3. During social studies, compare democracies from the past to modern government systems. This is great for discussion and critical thinking.

#2: Don’t Flip Out…Just Flip Your Classroom

Sometimes there is just not enough time in the day. That’s why using bite-sized videos for students to watch at home can be super valuable! If you have quick instructional videos students can watch at home, you are freeing up time for interactive activities in the classroom which will increase student engagement. 

By giving students this “piece” of a lesson while they are at home, parents can learn with their student and be in the know. However, the biggest thing is that you free up classroom time for active practice in school. To give out these little instructional bits you can use any of the following: 

  1. Use Google Classroom to share materials at home with your students. You can add parents easily and send simple messages. 
  2. Having platforms like EdPuzzle allow you to put questions inside video and make more engaging homework.
  3.  Give classroom time to collaborate and apply theories based on the videos and assignments you sent home. 

#3 Increase Student Engagement with Total Physical Response 

This has to be one of my favorite ways to increase student engagement. When you use total physical response, students work on coordination of speech and action. While this was originally for ESL students, it has huge benefits for all students. When you use TPR, your students are using gestures and call and response in learning. This keeps students actively engaged in the process and activates more than one part of the brain which helps students retain. 

You can use Total Physical Response in so many ways that will increase student engagement in your classroom. Here are a few ways you can incorporate it into your classroom: 

  1. Use it in chemistry to talk about molecular structures by forming them with the students’ bodies. 
  2. During math lessons, have students or hops to represent addition and subtraction. 
  3. In literature class, have students act out moments of the book to deepen the plot and understanding. 

All learners can benefit from this type of learning. Even our youngest students can use TPR to learn. For example, use students' arms to chunk sounds and slide through them down their arm to create blends. Adding gestures to different sounds is a great way to help students make connections between letters and their sounds. Plus, you increase student engagement. 

#4: Let Technology be Your Friend 

Technology is a big part of our world, and it’s only going to get bigger. You can use technology as a tool for real-time assessments and give students fun twists to traditional teaching methods. 

A few ways you can use technology to increase student engagement include the following: 

  1. Run a multiple choice poll to assess comprehension of new ideas. This is easy to do with a Google Form that will grade itself for you. 
  2. Create a live word cloud during a literature discussion to give students a place to react. 
  3. Use “upvote” style polls where students can prioritize what they like the most so you can make the content more engaging. 
  4. Let students use games like Kahoot and Blooket to review concepts at their own pace before a formal assessment. 

#5: Set the Stage 

One of the best ways to increase student engagement is to have an inviting community and classroom they can come into and feel safe. When your classroom is inviting and supportive, students feel safe to share, to be wrong, to succeed, to fail, to do anything! You can create an inviting environment using the following tips. 

  1. Have an area for interactive experiences and displays students can work on during science. 
  2. During social studies, have a “Global Wall” that has maps and global news. 
  3. For lower grade teachers, have a “creation station” with art supplies for free-form art. Letting students create with no boundaries is great for them. Plus, you’ll get to know them better. 

Challenging Students and Increasing Engagement 

All of these tips are great for increasing student engagement. However, you can use higher-level activities for older students or for students who need a challenge. What are higher-level activities you can use? I’m so glad you asked! 

Create Debate Time 

Sometimes students have different ideas, and it’s important we teach them how to have effective communication and respectful disagreements. Having class debates is a great way for students to engage emotionally while learning how to talk to their peers. To do this, you can: 

  1. Facilitate debates on ethical issues like cloning or AI. 
  2. Talk about historical events and how they impact the word today. 
  3. Debate the positives and negatives of technology in education today. 

Have a Treasure Hunt to Increase Student Engagement 

Treasure hunts are educational and exciting. Students love getting up and moving or interacting digitally in a different way with online escape rooms which are like treasure hunts. Here are a few ways you can use treasure hunts in your classroom: 

  1. Organize a vocabulary hunt where each clue leads to a words that is in the room. This can be like eye spy but for sight words. 
  2. Creating a math problem that requires solutions to find the next clue is always fun. This might include measuring things in the classroom. 
  3. Utilize technology and QR codes to have a history treasure hunt that links to various web pages with historical facts or videos. 

All of these are great for so many reasons. They all require students to think deeper, but they also teach important skills like digital responsibility. 

Increasing Student Engagement on a Budget 

You might be thinking that doing all of this is going to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be! You can engage students on a budget and here are a few ways you can do it. 

  1. Use egg cartons as math counters or for arts and craft projects to save some money on plastics. 
  2. Keep old magazines that can be cut up to create storyboards in reading class. 
  3. Never underestimate the power of a cardboard box and students’ imaginations. You can use these for stages, puppet shows, dioramas, and more! 

Plus, my friend Lindsay has several low prep, affordable, and almost done for you classroom transformations that will help you level up the engagement in your classroom with ease! 

If you are looking to increase student engagement during your math and literacy centers, you want to check out what we have at Farrah Henley Education. We have low-prep math and literacy games for grades kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade that are predictable, interactive, and engaging for students. Plus, once they are prepped and organized, they are simple to maintain and use for years to come. 


It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming to increase student engagement. However, we know it’s important to keep kids engaged and invested to make sure they are getting the most out of every minute of the day. You can make education enjoyable and relevant by implementing any of the ideas above. If you have more ideas, feel free to share them in the comments! 

Until Next Time…

Keep Being Educational Rockstars! 

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