One of the biggest challenges for teachers is keeping students engaged. Unengaged students are unmotivated or uninterested in what’s being taught — and, if left alone, they can erode the positive learning environment teachers strive so hard to achieve.
How do you, as a substitute teacher, successfully engage students in the small time you have with them?
Get Students on their feet
Most of the day, students are in their seats. But, as myriad studies have shown, sitting down too much can be as unhealthy as overeating or smoking. Plus, the lack of movement will increase their chance of becoming unengaged. To combat this, develop activities that force students to get out of their seats and engage. For younger students, try incorporating hand claps or a chanted verse to teach a lesson. For older students, try breaking them into teams for a standing group discussion.
Praise effort, not intelligence
Everyone learns at a different pace. Many times, it’s the students who learn at a faster pace that receive the praise. Rather than only commending those who “get it” the quickest, shift your praise to those who put in the most effort. By praising effort rather than intelligence, you are mitigating the chance that a student will become unengaged because they don’t feel like they are keeping up with the lesson.
Develop group activities
Lectures certainly have their place in the classroom, but they can’t be the totality of your teaching methods. Use the subject matter of the lesson to spark discussion amongst the students. A lively debate is sure to keep students engaged and learning.
Use specific real-world examples
Learners, teenaged learners in particular, need to understand how what they are learning will help them in the real world. Spend some time before class to think of ways you can relate the day’s lesson to the students’ lives. For example, a math lesson could be related to buying a car (something all teenaged students are thinking about).
Class discussions can quickly run dry and become hard to manage. Engaging students with questions helps keep them involved in the lesson. Asking well thought out questions helps keep students on-task and focused. Not only will it promote higher-level learning, it will encourage greater student participation. Make sure the questions are thought-provoking. A good question is logical and sequential, fits the students’ abilities, causes the students to thinking and not just recite, and encourages the students to develop their own questions.
Every student is different. There are no surefire ways to engage students. Hopefully these tips start you in the right direction.