A movie, a game, a trip, they can all get a classroom buzz with happiness and excitement. But the same classroom can go as silent as a stone when it comes to learning. Right? Is learning that dull, or are the outdated teaching methods to blame? Whatever be the reason, things need to change.
And it can start with developing a student-centred learning approach. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you have your students' attention.
Your active efforts to get to know your students can definitely make a difference. So, understand them — one and all. And this can all start with a pleasant smile which the class will learn to reciprocate.
Be energetic and initiate conversations by raising interesting questions that the students will love to answer. That's how you give them ample opportunities to show off what they know. And this, in turn, can make the whole session more alive and interactive.
There will still be a good fraction of students who'll hardly interact. Devise alternate methods for them, the timid ones. For instance, you can encourage nonverbal communication or assign group works which ensure their participation. And go for one on one conversations when needed. Give personal attention to whoever is struggling, personally or otherwise. And please remember to be a good listener to them, always.
A routine, please
Have your entire session organized. Allot time for different activities, each at most 15- 20 minutes. You can't hold the student's interest and enthusiasm more than that. Understanding this fact can be your first step towards building a lively classroom.
But, how can I come up with a routine that is engaging? That's totally up to you, the nature of your students, and the subject you're dealing with. For instance, you can start your session with a piece of news, followed by a presentation and discussion where you can even get your students to summarise what they've learnt. And then conclude the session with a fun activity. A routine like this can put your students at ease, always looking forward to something. This can also help you to present new information in chunks and not overwhelm them with the same.
Try different mediums
Not every one of your students learns the same way. There can be visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners in your classroom. Understand the diversity, and adopt different and innovative teaching methods in the classroom.
You can creatively integrate demonstrations, experiments, presentations, video or film screenings, games, tests etc., in your sessions, depending on the need. All of these can make learning fun and can revive their interest in learning. Or, you can even communicate with your students and devise a personalised plan for each of them, if that is possible.
And it's not just the medium, be flexible even about the environment and your presentation style as well. Get your students out of the books and classrooms once in a while. Shift your classrooms to the outside, the lab or any other rooms they haven't been to. Plan field trips. Because, who will not love a change? Your students definitely will. And remember to ask for their feedback regarding all these new techniques you adopt because it is ultimately them who you're trying to please.
A group assignment or project, if properly planned, can get all your students actively participating and interacting with each other. And it doesn't need to be strictly academic in nature; you can always engage them in activities they'll love to do, no matter how trivial it may sound. Activities like those can nurture a sense of belongingness, which can help them open up and step up.
Also, please note, don't project yourself as an outsider in all this; try to participate in the groups and activities yourself actively.
Celebrate their achievements
Celebrate the students' achievements no matter how small they're. It can boost their confidence substantially. For, a great teacher is their biggest fan and biggest cheerleader.
But while doing so, please keep in mind that you're here to reward their efforts and not just the outcome. And it would be best if you assigned achievable goals for each and every one of them. And celebrate each milestone of theirs. Also, in the process, make each and every one of them introspect about the reasons for their success and failure. And teach them to compete with themselves, to outperform themselves and not others.
Although this kind of extrinsic motivation can help, it should be the intrinsic motivation you should be focusing more on, for the long term results of course.
Give respect and take respect
Treat your students as equals, and respect them so they can reciprocate. Let go of the antiquated belief that fear is equal to respect. Instead, nurture a fear-free environment with no punishments where they feel safe to communicate, comment and be themselves.
Allow them to be in charge
Yes, put them in the driver's seat. Give them responsibilities and autonomy in taking decisions; that'll in fact, give birth to not just good communicators but good leaders. Also, let them choose the topics they want to engage in, the activity they want to do, the pace etc., once in a while. It can make a difference.
Why are we learning this?
'I don't even understand why we're learning this' Trust us, if a student feels like that, that's it; you're done for. They'll hardly care about a subject that looks irrelevant, let alone engage with it. And it's only you who can convince them otherwise. Give them a clear objective of why they're learning a topic, chapter or subject, and always present them with relatable examples so that they find a sense of reason 'why'.
Not every student in your classroom is an Einstein. Some are Picassos, Sachin Tendulkars or Shah Rukh Khans. Be that teacher who respects and acknowledges that— who helps students discover their passion and interests. And don't hesitate to show them how proud you're.
So, in short, try to be that teacher they look up to, they consider a role model, one who makes them want to be a teacher, one who makes them feel loved and cared for, and one they consider a dear friend. If you can be them, half or more of your problems with student engagement will be already sorted.