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How to Keep Pupils Engaged

Pupils are engaged and active in their learning when activities invite them to communicate, collaborate and respond to a range of stimuli.

11 teaching techniques to keep pupils engaged and active in lessons

Every teacher wants their pupils to be engaged and active during lessons. Similarly, observers of lessons look favourably upon teachers whose pupils are active and attentive during a lesson.

The techniques described below ensure high levels of student engagement in lessons. These strategies guarantee that learners are stretched to think, participate and collaborate. Make these lesson tweaks part of your teaching arsenal so that you can blow your pupils’ minds time and time again by keeping them active and engaged.

1) Take 4

Useful for: Collaboration in small groups of four.
Resources needed: Paper, pencils or a whiteboard and pens.

How: Organise students into groups of four. On a piece of paper divided into four equal parts, one pupil writes draws his/her idea. The paper is then moved around the group with each student adding something new each time. The teacher can offer criteria as to what might be added by each member of the group (e.g. one pupil adds an adjective to the sentence; the next pupil adds a simile and so on).

2) Talking partners

Useful for: Collaboration in pairs during teaching input.
Resources needed: None apart from a stimulus/question/topic to be discussed.

How: Organise students into pairs. Give them a set amount of time to discuss the question you have asked or to discuss the stimulus. Elicit ideas from pupils once the agreed amount of time has elapsed.

3) Sticky fingers

Useful for: Collaboration across a whole class. An alternative to talking partners.
Resources needed: None apart from a stimulus/question/topic to be discussed.

How: Once you have posed an interesting question or presented the class with a stimulus, invite pupils to move around the round (do not allow them to clump together with their best friends but instead encourage new partnerships to form). Call out “sticky fingers!” Pupils pair off by placing finger tips together and then discussing the question or stimulus. Rinse and repeat.

4) Test, teach, trade

Useful for: Oral/mental starters. Questioning and collaboration across a whole class. Repetition and rote learning.
Resources needed: Class set of question and answer cards. On one side of a card, a question is displayed. The answer to that question is displayed on the reverse of the same card.

How: Each pupil is given a card (or they could make their own). They move around the room with their cards and test one another using the questions. They swap cards each time. Repeat for a predetermined amount of time.

5) No Hands Up!

Useful for: Ensuring pupils remain attentive, ensuring inclusion and for preventing children from dominating class discussions.
Resources needed: None. Just good old questions.

How: The teacher declares ‘no hands up’ so that pupils can expect to be called upon to answer a question rather than them raising their hands to answer questions. This one is quite difficult to implement because of the way pupils have been conditioned to raise their hands in lessons.

6) Includers

Useful for: Ensuring that all pupils contribute to collaborative group work.
Resources needed: None but paper and pens can be employed at the discretion of the teacher

How: Let’s say pupils are working in groups on a presentation. Too often, some pupils are very active in the process whilst others are more passive or just lazy and let the others do everything for them! This is where your ‘includer’ comes in. The includer’s job is to make sure that every member of the group contributes something. It can be useful to appoint an includer who themselves are usually somewhat passive or appoint someone with leadership qualities.

7) Spies and Envoys

Useful for: Group work where a presentation/poster is being produced or research is being undertaken.
Resources needed: Pens, paper, whiteboards.

How: Set children off to work in groups on a poster/presentation. Appoint one child in each group as a spy and another as an envoy.

The role of the spy is to do exactly that – spy on other groups and pinch their ideas.

The role of the envoy is similar but more overt. They must approach other groups and engage them in discussion about their work before returning to their own group to report their findings.

8) Positive, minus, interesting

Useful for: Lesson starters/thinking challenges particularly in humanities subjects
Resources needed: A stimulus

How: Present children with a stimulus. For argument’s sake, let’s say this is an image. Invite them to suggest one thing positive about what’s going on in the image. Then invite them to suggest one minus or negative point about the stimulus. Finally, get them to tell you one more interesting thing about the stimulus.

9) Consider All Factors

Useful for: Lesson starters / thinking challenges particularly in humanities subjects
Resources needed: A stimulus outlining a particular scenario (e.g. Everyone in the world stops switching electric lights off).

How: Present children with a question/stimulus and invite them to say how it would affect them as individuals, how it would affect their family, how it would affect their neighbourhood, how it would affect the city in which they live, how it would affect the country and so on.

10) Transform and Reduce

Useful for: Plenary in any subject.
Resources needed: Depends exactly how you wish to approach it.

How: Invite children to summarise their learning by reducing it turning it into something else. This could be done by getting them to summarise a chapter of a book by writing what happens in one sentence. It could be that you get them to draw a comic strip depicting an event. The choice is yours but it must enable pupils to summarise their learning and show you their understanding and progress in relation to lesson objectives and outcomes.

11) Silent Modelling

Useful for: Teacher demonstrations of calculations but can be applied to almost anything.
Resources needed: Class board and pens/chalk.

How: This is a simple but highly effective strategy. The teacher, who does not speak during the demonstration, simply models a written calculation on the board. Occasionally, the teacher must stop and non-verbally invite students to explain what the teacher has demonstrated. Combine this with ‘no hands up’ and this method really gets pupils thinking about the steps to success and makes them active participants in the demonstration. The more theatrical the teacher, the better!

By | 11 April, 2015 | Blog

2 Responsesso far.

  1. […] them with you on a USB stick. Combine these resources with our ‘Top Teaching Tips’ and ‘How to Keep Pupils Engaged’ and you will rarely go wrong in a situation as a supply teacher where the regular teacher […]

  2. […] hand. Point at objects and use hand signals without uttering a word and employ strategies such as silent modelling. Not only will all these non-verbal cues save your voice but they will also increase independent […]

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