#1 Tip for Classroom Management: Engagement, Engagement, Engagement

Rae HughartBlog, Class Management, Engagement, Innovation, Lesson Planning, Teach Further

In this post:

  • Education must be more than neon paper, glittery notebooks, and one day after school events.
  • Every time I work with a group of teachers on classroom management strategies, a groan takes over the room when I say that dreaded word….. Engagement!
  • The endless misconceptions of what engagement actually means are the root causes of each groan.
  • What is engagement?
  • How do you build continual engagement?

 

You’ve heard me say it a hundred times…

Fluff ain’t enough!

Education must be more than neon paper, glittery notebooks, and one day after school events. Educators are better than holding themselves to a standard that a one evening STEM events or October interdisciplinary unit is enough for student success. We need purposeful integration of best practice tools to truly see the impact.

Nevertheless, every time I work with a group of teachers on classroom management strategies, a groan takes over the room when I say that dreaded word….. Engagement! The reality is, we cannot deny the need for students to be engaged. Remember, engaged students don’t have time to be off task! However, the endless misconceptions of what engagement actually means are the root causes of each groan when we talk engagement. So, let’s set it straight!

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What is engagement?

Student Engagement (according to the Glossary of Education Reform published in 2016) refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion  students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.

This element of the classroom does not only take place while leading an eye-catching lesson and we can not only track a students engagement level based on how wide-eyed their facial features appear. Whether engagement surfaces through a student taking ownership over their learning or a students grit to master a concept for the sake of solving a problem in the community, engagement is found in may forms and may appear differently for each student.

Why is engagement needed?

The ever so common question “Why do I need to engage my students? I am not an entertainer.” has been an over used question when discussing the idea of engagement with some educators at recent conferences. The reality is, it is an educators job to help a student feel connected to the content. But the reality is, this is not a bad expectation!

Educators play a role in helping students enjoy the idea of learning. They support students in problem solving, lead students down the right path to make good choices, and build relationships to help students grow social and emotionally. The idea of engagement meaning each teacher needs to be as eye-catching as the latest video game is not only unrealistic, but impractical. You’ll never be as cool as the latest trend, but you can be just as relevant!

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How do you build continual engagement?

Connect your Content: Consider designing meaningful, connected lessons by partnering with local businesses to learn and apply content. Imagine the impact learning could have by not only filling the experience with valuable content, but with life experiences as well! If you want to better echo the value and why behind your content, what better way to do that then through the real world application your students can experience as they leave your classroom and head into a leadership role in the world.

Many students do not begin to think about their futures until they are late in their educational journey. You have the power to change the game. Reach further than simply the purpose of the content, and connect how learning directly relates to your students’ future and how it affects their community.

As students transition into adulthood and begin working in professional fields, they are required to apply more than just content knowledge to their everyday learning.  Consider what “soft skills” are essential for your career focus. What other learning opportunities can you design within this area to build a more well rounded student?

How can this affect students behavior? Obviously, students who understand the value of learning have a higher likelihood to be engaged. However, lets take this a bit deeper! As we explore immersing students into learning in a purposeful way, we can accomplish a number of behavior interventions! (1) Consider getting students up and moving throughout this process. Purposeful movement can help students get out the jitters of a “sit and get” learning environment. The more physical interaction students can have with their learning experience – the better!  (2) While using community and real world connections, we always encourage students to have interactions with the community. Bringing in stakeholders to be a part of the process can allow students opportunities to build relationships with outside supports. The stakeholders supporting your students, the better!

Listen to your Students : The truth is, most educators are scared. Scared of what they may find out if they stopped to ask their students how their instruction is going. Many feel this question to a student welcomes criticism. This is never been my viewpoint. I say, stop and ask your students (everything) – What type of lesson do you enjoy? What type of learning do you feel helps you learn best? Would you share with me when you feel most accomplished in my classroom? Why?

Then… just listen. Listen to your students’ ideas. Listen to your students’ struggles. Listen to your students’ explanation.

The more valued a student feels, the more you can foster a respectful learning environment and student ownership can be integrated. Have a student seemingly removed from the class? This student may keep their head down, refusing to complete any work, and may spend more time fighting with the idea of learning then learning itself. Consider the listening strategy with these students. Simply asking a student what may be wrong is one approach, but I want to encourage you to take it further. Focus on listening to what drives this student. What feels like too large of a task for this student? What feels manageable for this student?

The more we can listen, reflect, and adapt to support our students will result in a more successful classroom management outcome. It may not always be an overnight success, but the process of building strong classroom management procedures is a continual process.

Try it out!


About Rae Hughart

Rae Hughart is a Middle-Level Math and Writing Educator in Illinois and the Director of Training and Development for Progressive Mastery Learning, LLC. In 2017, Rae was honored with the Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni Award – inducting her into the University Hall of Fame.