Have you ever seen your colleagues, in a staff meeting, that they are not paying attention? Maybe some of them are marking homework while others are having a private conversation and others are texting? Well, as we already know, our learners are not different than us adult teachers. If they are focused on what’s going on in the meeting, they will always find something else that interests them.

You know getting your learners focused, enthusiastic and on task at the beginning of class is challenging enough. Once you have them locked in to the lesson, it becomes a problem to watch them zone out and there’s nothing unusual about that. After-all anyone who has to sit through a long routine, including a teachers meeting, is bound to drift off at some point.

Even so, unless you manage to capture and keep your learners focused, whether at the beginning or midway during a lesson, the engine of learners that you are trying to drive is simply not in gear.

The lack of engagement interferes with your learners’ learning and it is very much contagious. It pulls those who are focused into wondering, ‘Why should I pay attention if others are not’?

I have come to understand that this lack of engagement is so terrible that I will do everything I can to prevent it even if it’s too small. If you strive for maximum learning for all your learners then allowing them to wonder around and not paying attention in class would feel like a betrayal, to yourself and to them.

If you need to get your learners engaged in the classroom you may need to follow these 6 hacks

  • Make your lesson meaningful

How? Let them brainstorm problems for problem-based learning. Involve the local community or even the school governing body (SGB) in project-based learning. Ask them what they love, are afraid of, are curious about, or want to contribute to.

  • Foster a sense of competence

What learners say, do and create are products of thought processes that, more or less, are predictable–and of significant potential if we can make those processes visible.

  • Provide autonomy support

How? Encourage self-directed learning, but also provide checkpoints where learners should check-in with you, a peer, a parent, an expert in the community, or someone else that can support them without defeating independence.

  • Embrace collaborative learning

How? Grouping is an easy go-to strategy here, but collaboration is more than simply sitting together, or completing an activity together. For true collaboration, design lessons that can’t function without meaningful collaboration–learner-to-learner, learner-to-community, learner-to-expert, school-to-school, and so on.

  • Establish positive teacher-learner relationships

How? A good start toward building a positive teacher-learner relationship is to meet the learner on their own terms with original interest and personalized attention. Using positive assumptions is another useful strategy.

  • Promote mastery orientations

If we’re truly focused on understanding (and it’s sibling ‘mastery’), then helping learners understand what they’re working towards, the value of that goal, and how to recognize and use that mastery once achieved can help engage learners, but also to promote a strong learner-teacher relationship. In the long run, these two (engagement and relationships) eventually feed one another naturally.

Now it’s your turn. What strategies do you use to engage your learners? Let me know in the comments below.

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