How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
Joel | Teaching
Once we are able to keep students quiet, then the real work begins. I found in my first two years that the REAL work for me was keeping the students quiet. I fought them all the time. After I began to learn how to keep them quiet more, I was faced with the challenge of having them actually be interested in what I had to say. Since I over explain most things, they tend to not like hearing me talk.
1. Talk less
The less I talk, the more work the students do. The more they work, the more they tend to learn. While I personally learn just as well from hearing or reading as I do from doing, most people do not. And even so, the overwhelming majority of people actually do not learn more from listening than they do from doing. As a result, the more doing that they do, the more learning will be accomplished. The more they learn, the more they will stay focused and engaged in the learning process. Make sense? Sure it does!
2. Economize words
When I do talk, I try to keep what I say to a minimum. Many students have been trained from an early age that when teachers talk, it’s acceptable for them to zone out. We train students to do that exact thing by talking too much. This is not something I have mastered or even begun to master, but it works. I’m trying.
3. Play more
As a band director, this has obvious applications. The less I talk, and the more the students play their instruments, the faster they learn the music. But that is not the only meaning. Have fun. Have a sense of humor. This comes from loving your work. The more you enjoy your work, the more fun you will have. The more fun you have at work, the more you enjoy it. It’s a positive spiral. It’s a beautiful thing. Make the choice to have fun at work each day. Let the kids have fun in your class. If you want them coming back for more each day, this is vital.
4. Ask questions
This is a great way to check for understanding. When I give instructions, I ask questions about the instructions. “We’re playing four measures, does that mean four measures and one note?” “Let me hear the trumpets play. Who should I hear playing?” “Open your book to page fourteen. What page?”
5. “Are there any questions?”
At the conclusion of giving a series of instructions, I ask if there are any questions. If there are none (and there usually are none), I summarize the instructions again, asking questions in the process.
I have found that these steps usually end up in keeping more of the students engaged more of the time. Part of the deal when working with people, especially children, is that there’s no guarantee that any desired outcome will result. But there is a greater chance of success if you follow these steps.