How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?

This article is part 2 of the series Questions That Will Save Your Career. Please read the other articles in the series.

  1. How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  2. How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  3. How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  4. How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  5. How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  6. How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  7. How Do I Keep My Sanity?
  8. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  9. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  10. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  11. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  12. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  13. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  14. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

641179_studying_4What are some things I do to keep students engaged in learning?
Once we have been 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 overexplain 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.

About Joel Wagner 504 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting.He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

10 Comments on How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?

  1. I love the idea of talking less. You ar right on that the less you talk the more work the kids do. When I was a prinicpal, I went into many classrooms where the teacher was talking and the kids WEREN’T listening. Engagement is so very important and having the students doing the work is what should happen. Now that I am back in the classroom, I try to remember this daily.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. I have proof that talking LESS actually works. If I spend the period talking, unless it’s a really good story, chances are, the kids arebn’t paying attention. However, this morning, for example, my second graders shocked me when I explained the Time Signature concept iusing simple math and fractions. When I finished explainging it briefly, one student put her hand up and re-explained it in her own words. I was very impressed. They were THINKING about what I had said and had time to process it before going on to the next topic. I’ve learned that most students you’ve got to talk long enough to expain it then give them time to process in their own way. Sometimes they come up with a better explaination than you gave. I have used students’ ideas when teaching other classes. The few in this music class who didn’t fully understand Time Signatures when entered certainly had no trouble with them when we left. It was a good class.

  3. When I was teaching private lessons, a 6th grader told me that “A tie makes two notes into one note.” It’s exactly right, yet it covers the whole concept that we try to teach in such a simple way.

    Our words often overcomplicate things.

  4. Every Friday, we play “Music-o” for Band Bucks and prizes. It not only is fun but keeps the students current in their theory. Sometimes we also hold an impromptu rehearsal after school that anyone can attend from any group and play some fun band music. So far, the turnouts have been 25-30 kids in all sections making for a big band that is well balanced and a point of interest for everyone involved.

  5. I think I’ve discovered what’s really going to work in our school’s situation. It took a year and a half to figure that out, but it’s finally starting to come around and not seem like such a deal for most. The after school rehearsal is something that I mentioned in a “BTW” kinda way, and everyone showed up! It really shows me who’s in it and who’s not. This is also a great way to have all levels of band working together for a common goal and strengthing what we do have and not protesting what we don’t. Lessons are tough to learn but hey, if it works, do it!

  6. I think I’ve discovered what’s really going to work in our school’s situation. It took a year and a half to figure that out, but it’s finally starting to come around and not seem like such a deal for most. The after school rehearsal is something that I mentioned in a “BTW” kinda way, and everyone showed up! It really shows me who’s in it and who’s not. This is also a great way to have all levels of band working together for a common goal and strengthening what we do have and not protesting what we don’t. Lessons are tough to learn but hey, if it works, do it!

  7. I love it, I love it!! Thanks to all of you for writing such awesome stuff… This is the teacher’s lounge I’ve been waiting for ;-) Keep the good stuff coming!

  8. I have been looking for different ways to keep my students engaged all year round. I will try these strategies immediately. I know I can talk less and listen more to my students. I think that alone will make a big difference because it will allow the students more time to explore their own thoughts with other students and I will be there to move them in the right direction with their thinking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


Twitter Users
Enter your personal information in the form or sign in with your Twitter account by clicking the button below.

Twitter Tweet This

Page optimized by WP Minify WordPress Plugin