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3 True-Blue Ways to Engage K-12 Students

20 November 2017|Hannah Olson

There are hundreds of articles and books written about the art of engaging the full attention of students in learning spaces, from seating design and lighting to lesson content, every little detail can help create a more engaged class.

These three ways to increase engagement and participation bring you some ideas for creative involvement, instant-impact EdTech application, and full in-class flow transformation.

1. Using a Fairness Cup to Keep Students Thinking

Edutopia, the comprehensive website and online community that’s part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation shares this great tip that keeps students on their toes without feeling picked on:

The more you can manage your classroom to be a supportive environment, where students are encouraged to take risks without fear of being put down or teased, the easier it will be to use your fairness cup regularly, without feeling that you are setting students up for failure.

Here's how: Write each student's name on a Popsicle stick and put the sticks in a cup. To keep students on their toes, pull a random stick to choose someone to speak or answer a question. Important: When you begin using your fairness cup, prepare a range of questions, some of which all your students can successfully answer. This strategy allows the bottom third of your class to get involved and answer questions without being put on the spot.”

I have seen this system work with students and even with adults: Wanting to ignite participation and engagement, a “fairness cup” approach was implemented during weekly meetings. We let them know that, every week, a few days before the meeting, we would assign a discussion topic to the full group and, at random, during the meeting, we would call on someone to summarize and lead a discussion on the topic. The exercise yielded amazing results as everyone participated, everyone was ready to go with the content, and we were certain that all participants were walking away with full knowledge of the topic at hand. It gave us a great way to support them and to optimize our time together. Win-win-win.

To implement this winning strategy with younger grades, you may want to let them decorate their own name stick so they feel more connected to the project.

2. Avoid the “Rice Krispies” Effect

You may already be using multi-media in your lessons: showing a mini documentary to cement concepts, streaming music from your phone for an activity, using your laptop to stream YouTube videos. Your strategy of taking the class from a one-person show to a multi-dimensional content delivery is the right path to engagement, but…

Without amplified sound, have you noticed how the stifled audio that comes out from your TV, phone or laptop sounds more like ‘snap, crackle, pop’ than the content you so carefully planned? All your work in creating an engaging assignment goes out the door the minute they have to struggle to listen.

In comes Juno, our classroom audio system, which delivers crystal-clear sound from its teacher and student microphones and, now with Bluetooth, also wirelessly allows you to connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device and get quality sound that really engages students.

Computer speakers aren’t adequate for this purpose and, until now, connecting media to a suitable classroom sound system required that the source be close enough to the system to run a cable. Juno with Bluetooth is the ideal solution to the multi-media audio content woes.

“Having Juno in the classroom is like having a full-time aide that helps students better connect with and better understand my lessons and instructions. Now that Juno has Bluetooth, sharing audio from my laptop and Apple TV is much easier, and the students benefit from dynamic lessons; they pay attention to the material better, and I can be anywhere in the room,” shared Heather Sposato, a teacher at Penngrove Elementary School in California.

Besides an obvious positive shift in engagement, research has proven that students in classrooms using FrontRow classroom audio are twice as likely to achieve high-level reading growth.

In a three-year project involving 55 kindergarten-through-second-grade classrooms in Florida public schools, 96% of teachers found that student attentiveness, listening, and comprehension improved when using FrontRow.

3. Gamify Your Lessons & Activities

Gamifying content has been proven to increase student engagement and academic outcomes. According to The EdAdvocate:

“Gamification in education may optimize the brain’s processing of new information. This may be facilitated by the general aspects of gamified lessons, with the audio-visual presentation, minimized bites of schematized information, short time lapses, and often repetitive patterns.

Gamification in education can improve motivation and engagement. Game elements such as immediate feedback and earning badges for completing the challenges successfully are strongly influential on increasing the students’ drive in engaging in these games even within the walls of a classroom.

Gamification modifies the brain’s reward and pleasure center and ameliorates learning. It is well established that games, whereby a person wins or receives positive feedback, can activate the brain’s pleasure circuits by inducing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Educational games are suggested to have the same influence given their elements of winning challenges or successfully achieving a goal. This pleasure during gamified education results thus in a long-lasting affinity for the academic subject or for solving otherwise complex problems.”

In A Practical Way to Apply Gamification, Rambo Levin shares his inspiring experience in gamifying the classroom, from creating a whole new grading system including “eXperience points,” levels, badges, and a leader board (image above). You can see how he set up his ‘game’ plan here.

Engaging students is a life-long pursuit in education. A fairness cup, a Bluetooth classroom soundfield system, and gamification are at your reach to help achieve optimal participation.