Sunday, December 2, 2012

How to engage learners

Classroom Management Through Engaging Instructions

         Engaging students in the classroom is an ongoing task. What works for some students may not work for others. What works in the morning, may not work in the afternoon. As teachers, we have to constantly assess the mood of our students and use appropriate classroom management strategies which help create a conducive learning atmosphere.

One of the first questions my students ask me upon entering the class is “What are we going to do now?”This tells me two things: they are eager to know what is in store for them, and they are more at ease knowing what they will be doing, as opposed to not knowing, Writing the learning objectives on the board will help my students understand what they are learning and why they are learning it. As Doyle, W. (1983) stresses, making the objective clear from the outset will help students remain engaged in their tasks. (p.250).

 Making students understand the learning process is a powerful strategy. It is powerful because it focuses on empowering students. Information can be vast and extremely complex. According to Jones & Jones, ‘students lack skills for effectively learning new information.” (p.254). Their recommendation is to equip students with good study skills; they also need to know how to study and set goals for themselves. Some great strategies identified by Jones & Jones are the usage of graphic organizers: central and hierarchical, directional, and comparative. These enable students to create mental constructs which help them organize and make sense of information. Using Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence is also a recommended practice. Students need to understand what type of learners they are. Knowing their proclivities will help students understand that they all have ‘different strengths and limitations.’ (p.252). Finally, equipping students with certain study skills, such as skimming and scanning, highlighting relevant information, summarizing, and using mnemonics will help them become better learners. (pp 252-256).
This is another blog post I came across as I was writing this piece
 Low achievers can be successful in their learning if they are able to connect what they learn in their classrooms to their own lives.(Davidson, 1999). In order to engage all students in the learning process, teachers must take into account their interests and choices. A few effective strategies recommended by Teel, Debruin-Parecki, and Covington (1998) are: grading based on student effort, multiple-performance opportunities, giving students more responsibility and choice, and acknowledging their cultural heritage. According to them, these strategies help unmotivated students become more productive members of the classroom. (p.260).

One great strategy to motivate students is to ensure they experience success in the classroom. No one, claims Jones & Jones, enjoys failure. Differentiated instruction is a great way to ensure that all the students’ needs are met. By modifying instructions and assessments, students will feel more engaged with the learning process. According to Tomlinson (2005), differentiation “provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing…to developing products so that each student can learn effectively.” (p.1). She goes on to add that incorporating different tools of assessment, such as portfolios, journals, and interviews can provides students many ways to show their learning.

Self-evaluation of learning is a powerful strategy as it helps students take onus of their learning. Data makes their learning more comprehensible. Displaying student performance on charts can help them set their own goals.

Finally, a strategy which will benefit students is providing them with a safe and structured environment. Some strategies recommended by Jones & Jones are: speaking clearly and slowly; repeating instructions in a different way; familiarize students with unit vocabulary prior to teaching the unit; frequently check whether students have understood the concept. Students, especially ESL students will benefit from these strategies as many of them address their language needs.

The strategy I used this week was trying to engage students in the learning process by allowing students to create their own learning goals based on their preferences. I was specially focusing on a bright group of students who very often appeared lethargic and sleepy in class. Even though I try and prepare lessons which hopeful are fun and engaging and incorporate a lot of movement, there were times when this lot of students, were simply not as involved as I would have liked them to be.

I chose this strategy as it gave them the choice to decide how they wanted to learn. For the past month I had been incorporating drama every Friday. Most of the students enjoy role play and were very disappointed when I said it was time to focus on a different visual arts strand. Keeping in mind the strategy I was using for the week, I asked them whether they could make a convincing argument as to how drama could help them understand the central or big idea which their unit was based around. All of my students, especially the group that I was focusing on, seemed alert, motivated, and engaged as they set about creating a framework for a future drama lesson.

In another incident, we  looking at art as a form of expression, and thinking about how to integrate it with or unit. I showed them pictures of Eric Carle’s artwork. The students started investigating the effect different colored crepe paper has on each other. They decided to create a scene from a fruit and vegetable market. They noted how new colors were forming. One child ran out of the class to see how their work looked from outside; he then came back and suggested that they looked much better if turned the other way around in order to let the light filter through the tissues. Finally, as I was uploading their work on Google Plus, a student suggested I put it on the class blog for their parents to see. I asked her to take the responsibility of doing the same. Empowering my students in small ways and letting go of structured lesson plans seemed to be working as I was taking into account their needs and interests. The students appeared motivated and wide awake.

In future, I will continue to be alert and think of different ways I could help the students make the curriculum their own without losing sight of the goals and standards. As I incorporate one strategy and become more familiar with it, I will slowly and consciously incorporate other standards and monitor the effect they are having on student engagement, I will also keep in mind the points I stressed in the introductory paragraph: I will monitor the different strategies and their effect on different students. I will also keep in mind the time of the day and the subject before I identify which strategy to use.


Davidson, A. (1999). Negotiating social differences: Youths’ assessments of educators’ strategies. Urban Education, 34.

Jones, v & Jones L. (2007). Comprehensive classroom management: Creating communities of support and solving problems. Laureate Education Inc. Pearson.

Teel, K., Debruin-Parecki,A., & Covingston, M. (1998). Teaching strategies that honor and motivate innercity African American students. Teaching and Teacher Education, 145.

Tomlinson, C. (2005). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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