One Simple Way to Increase Student Engagement

All teachers want to increase student engagement. When your students are engaged, the lesson sings! It is like magic, seeing alert faces, excited about the topic at hand. Time flies by! You do not even want class to end. 

For some classrooms, student engagement is a rare (to never!) event. While other rooms are almost electric with interest all the time. I am certainly not there yet…but I am working on it!  No matter where we are in the spectrum, we can improve our skills by adding new strategies to our teacher tool belt!

I want to share one simple ‘tool’ that always leads to more student engagement: Students love when topics are about them.

“Make it About Me”

A great way to increase student engagement is to make the student the lesson. Challenge kids to think about the topic of the lesson in a way which centers around their own life. 

Let me explain with one of my favorite examples.

Near the start of the school year, we learn about the different forms of reproduction. Students are pretty familiar with types of sexual reproduction (marsupials, placental mammals, external fertilization). But some have never even heard of binary fission, fragmentation, budding, and parthenogenesis – forms of asexual reproduction. 

To strengthen their understanding of the types of asexual reproduction, I ask them to pretend that they can reproduce in one of those four ways. They are to write a short science fiction story about themselves reproducing either by budding, fission, fragmentation, or parthenogenesis – and then draw a picture that goes with their story.

Here are a few of the amazing drawings and stories that my students came up with!

Students are then invited to share their story with a few others in the room, or to read aloud to the whole class. They love to show off their work, which gets them talking about, and listening to, the lesson’s topics.

Related: Eleven ways to keep students engaged during direct instruction!

Increase Student Engagement form the Start

Here is a tip to get students’ attention right away – I tell them about the writing assignment before they even learn what the types of asexual reproduction are!  

This way, from the start, students will be learning about each type of reproduction with the thought “What would it be like for me to reproduce like this? How would I write a story about me doing this?” They are focused and engaged!

All teachers want to increase student engagement. When your students are engaged, the lesson sings! It is like magic, seeing alert faces, excited about the topic at hand. Time flies by! You do not even want class to end. 

A Few More Examples

Here are a handful of other topics that I use this strategy with. They are all science based – it’s my subject! But hopefully they will inspire you for your own classroom!

  • Think about the structure and function of each type of biomolecule. Which biomolecule is most like you? 
  • Consider what happens (tasks to be preformed) during each stage of the Cell Cycle. Which stage of the Cell Cycle would be most stressful?
  • There are over 200 different types of cells in the body (neuron, red blood cell, skin cell, etc). Each has a different structure and job. What type of body cell would you choose to be?
  • You live in the (choose a biome). Choose three animal or plant adaptations you would want to have and explain how they help you live in your environment. 
  • You are a transgenic organism with one new trait from any other organism – what new trait do you have? How did you get that trait? (explain the process of creating you – a transgenic organism). 

How can you use this idea to increase student engagement with your subject area? Share with us in the comments!

Want more? Check out this post! Turn any website into an interactive graded activity!

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