Kids Do Better When They Are Engaged

Bobbie FrenchBlog, Differentiate Better, Engage Better, Lead Better, Lesson Plan Better

  1. TL;DR:
  • Everyone wants to be engaged.
  • What are some hooks you use in lessons to capture kids’ attention?
  • Use the ATLAS strategy to think about engagement—attention, transition, lesson, activity, and summation.


Engagement! We can’t get away from it. This is only the 3rd post of my new series—Kids Do Better When…and I’m already talking about engagement again. Do you want to read more about engagement? Check out my Engage Better series!

Think about the last conference, workshop, convocation, or staff meeting you attended. Did you leave ready to share your new learning with the world? Were you excited to tweet the inspiring quotes or text a colleague something you couldn’t wait to try?  

Imagine walking into a workshop session and you get hooked right away and can’t wait to learn more!  You are hanging on the presenter’s every word and taking furious notes so you can try to apply this newly learned knowledge in your classroom or school.  This is what engagement can look like.

Who doesn’t want their students leaving their classrooms ready to enthusiastically share what they have learned? Click To Tweet

Hook Them

I’ve often referred to Dave Burgess’s book, “Teach Like A Pirate” when talking about engagement. We really do need to hook our students into lessons or even hook our teachers into our staff meetings.  This can look different in each classroom, learning space, or staff meeting.  Hooking our students can be as simple as having a prop to peak their interest or more intricate like decorating your entire classroom to look like a 20th-century castle.

Roadmap to Engagement

I recently read Weston Kieschnick’s book, The Educator’s ATLAS – Your Roadmap to Engagement, and was reminded how our kids do better when we engage them.  There are many definitions of engagement and Weston uses a three-point concept to explain the engagement formula.

Here are my 5 takeaways:

1. Students WANT to be engaged in class EVERY day.

They don’t want to be bored.  Students naturally want to be curious, explore, and learn something new.  I love the example of Miss Curry and her ‘how fast can you eat a banana’ hook that leads to teaching the order of operations.  She was able to grab her students’ attention in the first few minutes of class and get them to WANT to learn about an important mathematical concept.  It’s also a reminder that we all have the capacity to be creative and we can use that creativity to develop engaging learning experiences in our classrooms.

“Creativity is about knowing where to look for inspiration. It is not something one has or doesn’t have, and it’s not something that only a select few have. It is, in fact, abundant and exists in all of us.” – Weston Kieschnick

2. Did you know there’s a formula for creativity? 

Do you watch Disney movies? They all follow Freytag’s Pyramid!  It starts with exposition or, as we simply call it, the beginning where the story elements and characters are introduced. This leads to the rising action or the middle where there’s a conflict or problem that is introduced.  Finally, we get to the climax or the ending where all this conflict and tension comes to a head and we have the falling action where there’s some sort of ‘resolution’.  You can look at this formula through the lens of any Disney movie you’ve watched on repeat.  Weston talks about a few different formulas of creativity.  These provide us with the structure or guidelines we can use to create engagement in our classrooms.

3. Engagement Defined

Weston confirms what I wrote in my first engagement blog about the varied definitions of engagement.  This can leave educators confused with all of the conflicting definitions and how to apply them in their classrooms.  Engagement doesn’t mean fun.  You don’t have to be the fun teacher with students who share the fun things they did and not talk about what they learned. 

Weston shares that “authentic engagement results in learning so fascinating, relevant, challenging, and exciting that it compels students to enthusiastically share it with others and ultimately put their newly acquired knowledge to use.”  This is what we want from all of our students and lessons. Who doesn’t want their students leaving their classrooms ready to enthusiastically share what they have learned?  Remember that engagement does not mean that we have to entertain our students. It’s about getting kids to show up to class on time and ready to learn every day.

4. The Three-Part Definition

  1. Engagement as observed by students
  2. Engagement as a function of what you can control
  3. Engagement as achieved by teachers

We want students to be curious and excited to be active participants in their learning.  Learning happens when kids are curious.  We want to instill curiosity, participation, and perseverance in our students. That said, we only have so much control over our students. We need to focus on what we can control in order to engage our students.  Weston shares the following formula:

E= f(SD + TM)  (E = engagement, SD = student disposition, TM = teaching methodology)

We cannot control our students’ dispositions. That is part of who they are and what they bring to our classrooms.  We can control our teaching methodology and the instructional strategies we choose to use.  In addition, we decide what technology tools to use.  We choose the learning tasks and how to deliver our instruction.  Finally, we control how we approach our lesson from a lens of engaging and re-engaging our students.

We can stoke our students’ curiosity and get them fascinated to participate in our lessons, and even inspire them to persevere when the learning presents challenges.  Teachers can leverage this formula of engagement as a roadmap to engaging our students.

5. Put this all together as part of the ATLAS roadmap.

Weston explains how ATLAS is a creative engagement formula that can be used as a teaching methodology that you can use for all of your lessons (of staff meetings).






Weston says it best, “You are empowered to help your students achieve the fruits of engagement.”

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Kids Do Better When They Are Engaged

Engagement is the key to getting students excited to learn the content in your classrooms.  They will do better when they are curious. When they get excited to find out more about the topic you’ve introduced them to (even order of operations). When you challenge them and provide support to persevere.  You will know kids do better when you hear them sharing what they’ve learned with others.

I also encourage you to check out Weston’s book to read about the practical framework he’s developed for teachers to help them bring engagement to every lesson.  Your students will be eager to enter your classroom and prepared to be curious and learn something new.

About Bobbie French

Bobbie French is an educational leader, presenter and writer from Massachusetts.

Bobbie has been an educator for over 24 years. She has been an elementary guidance counselor, classroom teacher, special education coordinator, Title I Director, Preschool Director and Administrator.

Bobbie is passionate about focusing on the whole child and creating an environment where all students have a sense of belonging. She appreciates and recognizes the hard work of teachers, and is committed to supporting others to be their best for kids every day. Her passion and enthusiasm for creating a positive and engaging school culture is contagious.

Bobbie is also an avid photographer and loves to tell her school’s story.