5 Strategies to Spark Student Engagement in the Classroom

Nov 28, 2023

Student engagement is something that all educators hope to foster, but discerning the best way of doing this can be difficult. Research has shown that student engagement is crucial to overall learning and long-term success.

Students who are engaged are more likely to find enjoyment in their work, retain information longer, and persist in the face of challenges. This kind of self-confidence and self-motivation is invaluable to their growth both within the classroom and outside of it. So, how do we ignite student curiosity and interest in such a way that engagement becomes second nature for them?

At its heart, student engagement is about tapping into their innate curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Here are just a few strategies that educators can use spark student interest while fostering an environment of inquiry:

Build an Intellectually Safe Culture: Create a culture where students feel free to offer ideas and are encouraged to make mistakes. A simple change in the wording of a question can open up a comfortable space for students to offer solutions. Instead of asking, “What is the answer?” pose the question as “What is an answer?” This allows students to recognize that many solutions are possible.

Question Wall: Following a lesson, encourage students to voice any questions they have. Affirm the questions and compile them on a “Question Wall.” Periodically, gather and answer the questions using secondary knowledge sources. When there is time, students can design their own investigations to answer a question from the Question Wall.

Make it Real: Learning is more engaging when we see, hear, and touch what we’re learning about. Make learning concrete by incorporating costumes and props. Learning about railroads? Bring in a railroad spike. George Washington? Find yourself a wig, dress up, and play the role yourself!

Environmental Learning: Be sure to incorporate learning into your student’s physical environment as well. Are you doing a lesson on Hispanic Heritage Month? Hang up pictures of notable Hispanic Americans who’ve made the world a better place. Want to teach students about photosynthesis? Add plants to the classroom so they can watch them grow. Surround students with things that will ignite their curiosity.

Start with Why: Motivate students with a compelling question that serves as a hook to launch your lesson. Compelling questions should be provocative, motivating, and empowering. Examples: How can we stop germs in their tracks? Will our state survive the next 100 years? Can 4th graders inspire change in public policy? Give your classroom something to think about that they can apply to their everyday life.

By creating space where students are engaged, teachers can encourage them to take risks, pursue new ideas, and accept mistakes as part of the learning process. This type of growth mindset will allow them to persevere through any challenge that comes their way, while becoming better learners for the experience.

If you found these strategies to be helpful, be sure to check out Blue Apple’s Strategy Explorations. These free teacher-tested strategies can assist teachers in making their lessons more memorable, meaningful, and fun. Be sure to check out VAI’s latest webinar as well, where Jamie MacPherson shares new resources for empowering students and creating an environment of educational growth.

This article is courtesy of the Van Andel Institute for Education. For more free educational resources, head here.