How do we engage today’s K-12 students?

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            I think all of us, as educators, frequently lose sight of one really important thing. We get caught up in the everyday tasks, overwhelmed with constant planning, and lost in our metrics. We make daily decisions and by all means do our best, but we struggle with challenges day in and day out, all year long. Whether you are a classroom teacher, an administrator, or support from the district level, thinking about this one thing could solve all our problems. Ready for the secret recipe to success in today’s schools?


Here’s what we forget…

If students are engaged in their learning experience, all other “issues” are positively impacted (and can even fade away).


Engaged students are motivated to receive higher student achievement scores, exhibit less frequent behavior problems, have better attendance records, etc…. etc…. etc…


Why isn’t student engagement and creation of dynamic, exciting lessons currently the focus for most educators? If you’ve ever taught or attended PD, we’ve all heard the same reasons why not. “I have no time.” “My administrator told me to do it this way.” “I’m following the framework word for word.” Educators, we don’t have time for boring lessons and information either.


Here’s what I’m here to help you think about. Using these 3 student engagement strategies below (and more...), we will bring student engagement back to the forefront of the instructional experience. We will create innovative, unpredictable lessons and inspire students to take their learning to the next level. We’ll put students back at the center of all our choices and engage them in learning about the things they both need and want to learn.


Engage K-12 Strategy #1: Activate Learning


It’s up to you, educator, to activate a student’s learning experience. What does real learning look like in action? Probably not students sitting in rows completing their own worksheet. We can get students truly engaged in learning with strategies to engage today’s learner and make it relevant, connected, and meaningful.


Let’s encourage students to develop and use their voice to impact the world.


Engage K-12 Strategy #2: Use Project-Based Learning  


If you’re anything like me, one of your biggest pet peeves is seeing students do projects for the sake of doing projects and not experiencing the magic of true project-based learning. Students should be encouraged to inquire, explore, and critically think to solve essential questions and engage in real-world problems. True project-based learning lets the creation of a product, presentation, or project guide the learning for the students. Yes, dear old-school teacher, that means that the project doesn’t come AFTER all the learning has already happened. It means that the learning occurs in conjunction with the process to create meaningful products or learning artifacts. Of course, sharing the products and projects with a real authentic audience always increases student engagement and buy-in.


Let’s try using project-based learning to encourage a student-or learner-centered approach in your classroom.


Engage K-12 Strategy #3: Student-Centered Learning Quests   


What kinds of things engage you as a learner? Maybe you’re an enthusiast about choose your own adventures, escape rooms, vlogs, podcasts, or content that you can control the pace, path, time or place? Educators, we can engage students through student-driven learning quests where students are in control of their own learning. Teachers can guide students through different kinds of quests or “mystery paths” to present the information students need to learn in fun, innovative ways. Choose an engaging theme for the students, toss out an unforeseen roadblock, and keep the information relevant as students engage with content in ways you don’t’ see in every classroom today. 

If you’re interested in Engaging K-12 students or creating engaging PD for adult learners, join me @nicholinac 

& Canvas this summer on Tuesdays 4-5 PM (EST) to discuss the 3 topics above. Sign up to attend the CanvasLIVE sessions using the links below.

BUT, remember this: Even the most boring of topics can be brought to life and activated when presented to students in a truly engaging way.

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