I want to share my five favorite SIMPLE tips for making a lesson more engaging.
I say simple
because I don’t believe that every lesson or activity needs to be a huge production or broadway show. In fact, I sugged you read an amazing book called Research Based Strategies To Ignite Student Learning (by Judy Willis M.D.)
that discusses how some simple things can increase engagement and the retention of learning. The book also talks about how doing big huge over the top things too much can hurt student learning because it removes the surprise and wow factor which is vital to engagement and memory retention!
I say this because I want us (teachers) to know that we’re enough. We’re good enough. We’re doing enough. I know there’s a lot of pressure to do big, grand, social media-worthy stuff in your classroom. Trust me, I feel it. I see it. But…our kids aren’t demanding a broadway show…they just want fun and silly and hands-on learning!
And guess what? If it works, if your students are having and learning and are happy, then IT IS social media WORTHY!!!!!!!! #thatisall
And this. If you want to do classroom transformations, then please do them. We love them BUT we only do 1 or 2 a year. Not weekly or monthly because we don’t it to become the norm. We also try to keep our transformations as simple as possible.
That said, we firmly believe you should do what you want/can in your classroom and do what works for you and your students!
So here are my 5 simple ideas for making a lesson engagement!
Yes! Dress up! Wear a silly hat!
These costumes don’t have to be expensive, elaborate costumes. They can be as simple as a cowboy hat for a lesson on cowboys or an apron when reading gingerbread man stories. My kids love when I wear a costume or hat when reading a story or teaching a lesson! Most of our costumes are from Amazon but we also make some of them on our own! Another great way to get costumes is to grab Halloween costumes when they go on sale after Halloween AND ask family and friends if they have Halloween costumes you can borrow!
Use music in your lessons, use music about your lessons and use music to set the mood. Jack Hartmann, Dr. Jean, and Harry Kindergarten are all great resources for music that teaches about academic skills! There are songs for letters and sounds and sight words and numbers and counting and shapes…and CVC Words! Brain research tells us the power of music and learning. We all know how easy it is to learn lyrics to songs, so why not use music to teach and reinforce academics?
If you’re teaching a lesson, show a video on YouTube. Or show a snippet of a video. These videos bring the content to life. We show videos for everything. Learning about venus fly traps? Watch a video. Learning about the queen giving a speech? Watch a video. When we read the book Rap A Tap Tap about Bojangles, the kids want to know if he’s a real person. Instead of answering them, I show a video of him dancing and they love it. Those connections are strong and that excitement gets those neurons excited which means we’re learning more and retaining more!
Here’s another fun way to use YouTube: you can find videos of almost any scene such as a beach, snow, falling leaves, etc that are very calming. When the kids are working, put one of those videos on your screen and it just sets the mood and brings a new and fun feeling to the classroom. It’s novel so it stimulates learning! And it’s SIMPLE, ya’ll!
In our classroom, we use falling leaves, snow, the beach, a fireplace in winter, Christmas scenes, etc. Just search for “window ambiance” on YouTube!
Use food in your lessons. Research says that if we can utilize our student’s five senses, they’re more engaged and learning has a better chance to be moved into long-term storage.
Use marshmallows for “snow” counters for a math lesson on adding, subtracting, or counting.
Pretzels and marshmallows make great shape-building tools.
Pretzels make great tally marks!
Use food for writing!
Food is a great tool for learning about cultures and traditions. Invite families to make a dish that is important to their family, their culture, or their traditions.
NOTE: always be aware of food allergies and dietary restrictions. Don’t let this stop you from using food, just make sure you’re being safe for everyone and including everyone!
Give your students choice in THEIR classroom. Remember, this is their classroom and their learning so the more we can give them choice and voice, the more engaged they are and the more they learn!
Choice in seating.
Choice in activities.
Choice in manipulatives.
Giving students choices automatically engages them because they have some control over their learning. After all, it is their learning so we need to give them choice.
My class has a choice in their seating, in the centers or workstations or hippopotamuses, and choice in the supplies they use. That choice has greatly improved our engagement and behavior!
For more information, check out these blog posts: