Student engagement is one of my top goals in my classroom – if students aren’t engaged in what they are learning, it doesn’t matter what you are teaching. Have you ever heard the famous words from Ben Franklin?
Involving students in learning is essential for student engagement! So, here are my 6 quick tips to increase student engagement:
Using a microphone in my classroom has been a huge game changer! One of my favorite ways to use the microphone is when I ask a “bonus question” to see who is really listening. I’ll give directions and use my best game show announcer voice as I clear my throat *ahem* and say: “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Do You Know It Game Show – where we see what you know! Today’s question for $1,000…” and just like that, all eyes are are on me and I know I’ve got their attention. I do this all. the. time. and spontaneously to keep them on their toes! It’s a great way to review directions, revisit information, ask a higher – level question, etc.
Here are some more ways I love to use my microphone in my classroom:
- Morning Meeting
- Celebrate Authors
- Calendar Time
- Presentation / Report
- Dramatic Play
- Reader’s Theater
- Read Alouds
- Star of the Week (pictured below)
I keep my microphone in a bin right next to my stage and have one of my student jobs (the Class Reporter) assigned to access the case, open, close, clean, and charge the microphone.
This is especially important in kindergarten when little ones need a lot of opportunities at the beginning of the year for movement and breaks. At the beginning of the year, I do some sort of movement or dance break for every 5 – 6 minutes of instructional time since research says that’s about as long as their little minds and bodies can sit still until you help them build their stamina.
One of the simplest activities I like to incorporate for a movement break is Simon Says – I add it in a “speed round” at any point! An easy way to do this quickly is instead of saying “raise your hand if…” you can say “put your hands on your head if…” or “touch your nose if…”
This is a great way to capture students’ attention and give them a quick movement break!
We also love Go Noodle! Have you tried it? They have so many amazing songs and stretches for kids when we need a break or cool down at any point! I introduce a few songs at first – we love Moosetube songs like “Moose-ta-cha,” “Boom Chicka Boom,” and “Hello Joe” to start!
Then, I write them on our magnetic spinning wheel. I like to let the Star of the Week spin the wheel for our dance breaks. To amp up the excitement, we all chant “Spin that wheel!” a f ew times until the wheel stops. The Star of the Week can either keep the first choice on the wheel, or spin one more time. Here’s a picture of our classroom wheel from the end of the year:
If you’d like your own wheel, you can find it on Amazon here.
There’s something about puppets and stuffed animals that draws kids’ attention so well. Puppets can teach life lessons, support social emotional growth, and allow kids a means of expression. While they are a great part of my dramatic play area, I love to use puppets for a variety of situations in my room to capture students’ attention.
At the beginning of the year, I have always told the story of “The Day the Monsters Came to School” and how they do crazy things in the classroom, hallway, playground, and even the bathroom! I am so excited to use Marty Monster (pictured below) to act out all the silly situations. The kids will watch Marty do silly, unthinkable things in the classroom like run, push, or even slide like a baseball player to his seat. As they watch, kids are quick to tell him “No! Stop!” and tell him the right way to walk in the classroom, use manners, be kind, etc. This is one of my favorite ways to teach classroom rules – and Marty Monster makes it even more magical!
You can use puppets for any lesson – any time of year! This past year as a virtual kindergarten teacher, I used finger puppets to make story characters come to life, be a “guest of the day,” and even help us learn about different animals! To get kids really engaged in learning and excited, I told them we had a special guest coming to help us learn about bats – but the kicker was I had to wake her up first! The kids all were a chatter wondering who our guest could be, and why she was sleeping during the day! I walked away and came back to hold Stellaluna hanging from the screen, and used my best bat voice to pretend she was waking up. Talk about instant engagement!
Of course, Stellaluna had to bring her friend Webster the following week to help us learn all about Spiders!
Thank goodness for two day shipping so Webster could arrive in time from Amazon! You can find spider puppet Webster here.
Oh, and if a child ever asks me if the puppet or stuffed animal is really alive… I pretend to be shocked, cover the puppet’s ears, and say “Shhh! He/she thinks they are real! Don’t tell them – it will hurt their feelings!” And pretend to console the puppet. Works like a charm – kids love the magic, too!
Are attention getters and callbacks your jam? I absolutely love them, too! But, they can get stagnant after using the same phrases or gestures, and kids start to lose interest.
My solution: Monthly Callbacks and Attention Getters
At the beginning of every month, we learn a new call and response. The kids love it, and they always remind me when it’s time to learn our new attention getter! We sing, clap, cheer, motion, and more to these different attention getters. To make sure the attention getter is effective, I let them practice once they learn the new phrase or jingle. We pretend that we’re talking, and then I’ll say my part loudly, and make sure they can say the student part quickly, stop what they’re doing, and show me whole body listening. We practice and practice until it’s perfect!
You can grab my Monthly Attention Getters FREEBIE here.
Adding in hands – on learning is huge for little ones! I have learned since my first year teaching to find foam manipulatives (when possible) since most manipulatives are plastic and loud. Giving children manipulatives like blocks, counters, magnetic letters, numbers, etc. helps them to touch what they are learning and allows them to manipulative math problems, build words, and more. Manipulatives provide students with a concrete experience that will help build those important foundational skills – and keep them engaged in learning!
I also love to add in games like Jenga, Headbanz, or a deck of cards. These are perfect adaptable games for reviewing skills, asking quiz questions in a hands – on way, and practicing teamwork. Here are some ideas for using these games in the classroom:
- vocabulary words
- sight words
- addition facts
- subtraction facts
- CVC words
Grab Headbanz Jr. by clicking here and use the plastic head bands from the game with your own flashcards. (plastic headbands are easy to wipe down with a Clorox wipe).
Deck of Cards:
- War (comparing numbers / less than / greater than)
- Go Fish – practice numbers or addition to 10
- Number order (put the numbers in order from 1/Ace – 10)
- Getting to know you (pick a card – each number corresponds to a question)
- What’s the pattern? (Pick 2 cards at a time and start to make a pattern – first one to finish a pattern first wins)
- Getting to know you
- math facts
- morning meeting
- review game
There are so many ways to add in games to spice up your lessons! The best part about them is that you can reuse the materials for different activities with little to no prep at all!
My last tip is one of the most important, and easiest to incorporate into your classroom:
It is sooo important to cultivate strong positive relationships with students at the beginning of the year! To continue to build these relationships, you can use ideas from what students share with you to add into your lessons. Have a class that loves cars? Do a race day! Explore force and motion while kids can think creatively and build their own car with materials you already have in your classroom. They can use toy cars to blend and segment CVC words, or race through a number line to count by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s.
Take time to talk with your students, learn their interests, and add them into your lessons for some simple and effective engagement in any lesson.
You can hear more about how I engage students in my Youtube video here:
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