Kids’ brains are like sponges, absorbing everything around them — that is, when they’re fully focused on the material. In the classroom, it can be more than a wee bit tricky to keep your goslings in check. After all, they’re surrounded by their friends. They’re buzzing about the latest streaming obsession. So, their attention? Well, it’s safe to say that’s a little harder to hang onto in the classroom.
Given that student engagement is a vital part of the learning experience, it’s helpful to prepare with a wingful of activities that fuel their excitement to learn concepts and connect with others (check out these other strategies for student engagement). The big goal is, ultimately, to get them on task so they’re better equipped to listen, learn, ask questions, and be active participants in the classroom. That’s undoubtedly a challenge, as teachers and administrators everywhere know, but the right strategies can significantly motivate students.
The Importance of Student Engagement
No doubt about it: There’s a lot of pent-up energy in the average classroom. It can present an obstacle as educators struggle to find exceptional ways to keep students interested and excited to learn. Student engagement is so much more than a one-dimensional concept. By taking a more holistic, whole-person approach to engaging kids, you stand a better chance of holding their interest and helping them better understand what you teach.
- There’s the concept of behavioral engagement, which refers to their willingness to participate, make the effort, ask questions, and follow the rules. They’re committed to the classroom experience and to making the most of their time with you. Behavioral engagement boils down to active participation, which affects their interest in classroom content and their desire to succeed.
- Another important facet is emotional engagement, or their capacity to demonstrate their feelings about everything from what they learn to the school itself. While it’s normal to have up and down days at school, the emotionally engaged child takes a generally positive approach to class, feels like they belong, and enjoys being there with their classmates. Interactions with others can affect the complete educational experience.
- Then there’s the value of cognitive engagement, or the actual logistics they apply to the learning experience. What value do they put into regulating their behaviors in the classroom, applying themselves to subjects, and putting in the effort to master the information you teach them? When cognitively engaged, kids take ownership of their work and pride in their performance.
These aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. Each one is connected to the other, quite intrinsically. Students naturally feel more confident when they’re well-connected to the classroom experience at large. They bond with their classmates, they get along with their teachers, they feel like they play an important role in school, and they enjoy participating in class discussions and taking part in activities. Every element plays a crucial role.
7 Activities That Are Certain to Keep Your Students Engaged
The bottom line? Learning is simply more fun when kids are engaged in the classroom. Anything that feels rewarding is bound to be more interesting to kids, whose attention spans may otherwise take flight. Keep them grounded and motivated by incorporating an array of these enjoyable and actionable activities.
- Make It Personal: What’s better than feeling like a celebrity? Not much for a kid, who will soak up the attention when you make the lesson all about them. This is as easy as integrating each child’s unique interests into your lessons. There’s the kid who’s a TikTok dance legend. The one who can tell you anything and everything you ever wanted to know about geese (our hero). You know, the child who’s already a computer whiz. Whatever makes them special, you can help them feel more engaged by incorporating those details into the workload. That might mean calling on a local tech guru to help the entire class learn tricks of the trade, interviewing a child’s dance instructor so the whole class can pick up a few moves, or simply using their names in math problems (Max has how many chocolate bars?!). By connecting their real-world interests to their classroom experiences, you’re bridging a gap and helping them feel more connected.
- Break the Ice: Icebreakers are some of the best engagement activities — the ultimate getting-to-know-you sessions. On the first week back to school, they’re bound to feel some jitters - help them feel less alone in that. Celebrate the start of the year with an unforgettable series of icebreakers that are sure to bring the laughs. Use a Goosechase template to help the students engage with one another in fresh, unexpected, and creative ways.
- Encourage Class Discussions: Two geese walk into a classroom… well, we’ll let the kids finish up this happy story. To encourage your students to engage with one another, read a passage aloud from a book. Then, ask them to consider the answer to a question about what you just read. Allow them some time to mull it over, then have them partner with their neighbor and discuss their thoughts. Invite each team to the front of the class to discuss their thoughts.
- Embrace the Outdoors: Spending time outside, soaking up the sunshine, enjoying some quality moments outside of the classroom? All seriously important elements that can help any kid feel more emotionally engaged and excited to be at school. It doesn’t have to be Earth Day for you to take advantage of fun outdoor activities, either. Why not arrange a scavenger hunt for kids to discover all kinds of unique items, like rocks of specific colors or leaves from specific trees? This Goosechase template features an array of ideas — worm pictures, anyone? — that are positive to bring plenty of laughs and a better understanding of photosynthesis.
- Jot It Down: Teachers love letting their learners have a little free-for-all time — provided they’re using that time wisely. Make this a fun activity by giving it a cute name to start. “Jotty Journals”? “The Write Stuff”? “Good Geese Writing”? (OK, that one might be more for us.) Whatever your moniker of choice, make it short, snappy, and witty so the kids remember it. Schedule this time toward the end of class, when there’s just a few minutes for them to write a paragraph summarizing what they felt about that day’s lesson. Encourage them to include questions they might have or anything that struck them. This is a simple way to encourage them to listen more closely during class and to express themselves on paper.
- Escape Comfort Zones: Comfort is nice. It’s cozy. It’s like goose down. Except when it becomes boring. That can spell trouble in the classroom if kids begin to lose their focus. The solution? Shake things up with something a little outside of their comfort zone! Set up a fun and adventurous activity that calls for them to perform outside-the-box tasks, collaborate, and foster important emotional engagement. How about cultivating kindness in the classroom by encouraging everyone to jot down one caring, thoughtful sentiment each week and sharing it with the class? Reenacting a famous movie scene in front of the class for all to see? The chance to get creative and a little silly will help expend some pent-up energy.
- Make Some Moves: Nothing gets the blood flowing better than movement. An activity that stimulates them both physically and cognitively is an excellent way to foster consistent engagement. If you’re teaching the littles, some basic math, accompany each fact with a hand-clap and a foot-stomp. Two (two claps) plus two (two stomps) equals four (four claps). Sure, it’s a little noisy, but it’s all in the name of making learning fun.
Engagement is everything — and often it’s the only thing that sets a motivated class apart from the rest. Resources like Goosechase, fun games, and easy yet stimulating activities make all the difference in grabbing and keeping their attention. With a combination of critical thinking and hands-on activities, your students will show up ready to bring their A+ game every time.
What is Goosechase EDU?
Goosechase is an online platform that helps educators create and run digital scavenger hunt-inspired learning experiences in their classroom and beyond. Sign up and try creating a game, or contact us to learn more about our school and district-wide solutions!