Obtaining and Retaining Student Engagement

The point of making students come to class is to get them to learn. Even if they are physically present, it doesn’t matter much if they aren’t also mentally present. If it’s an elective class, the students have chosen it from a variety of options and probably have at least some amount of interest in the subject, but it’s difficult to engage students in a lot of standard curriculum classes. Most students will never need to use trigonometry or analyze a poem in their adult lives, and history classes are notorious for being an endless tidal wave of disconnected facts and dates. There are many things a teacher can do to increase engagement in their classroom. Among these are variety, passion, and humor. PowerPoint lectures have a time and a place and it is not always and everywhere. The way students get or reinforce the knowledge needed for the lesson can be changed to something more student-centered or at least less teacher-convenience-centered. Students can also tell when a teacher is only teaching a class because they have to teach something in order to coach the sport they’re interested in. Not every subject can be a teacher’s favorite, but it helps the students feel engaged if the teacher is engaged and believes that the thing they are teaching can have a positive effect on the students’ lives in some way. It also helps students stay interested when there is a bit of humor in the lesson. It is still primarily a lesson and not a standup comedy routine, but students who have zoned out tend to zone back in quickly when they hear something humorous or the laughter of their classmates. Don’t be afraid to present something in an appropriately jovial way, or even let the students add in their takes on something, as long as you ultimately maintain classroom control.