Engage Students in Learning

By Nancy Mikhail

Teacher-directed vs. student-directed…This is an ongoing topic, but one that is very important. Thankfully, most schools are straying away from teacher-directed teaching and moving on to student-directed teaching. Student-directed teaching focuses on the students, how they learn, and how they are involved in learning. It’s more than simply working out of workbooks, but rather how students could use their hands to build stuff or collaborate as peers to work together.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron, an ELA teacher at a middle school, asked her students first-hand “What engages students?” In her article she lists 10 ways students expressed how they would like to be engaged. They include:

  1. Working with their peers
  2. Working with technology
  3. Project-Based Learning
  4. Clearly love what you do
  5. Get me out of my seat!
  6. Bring in visuals
  7. Student choice
  8. Understand your clients-the kids
  9. Mix it up!
  10. Be human

She included direct quotes from her students:

“Middle-school students are growing learners who require and want interaction with other popped to full attain their potential.”

“Students are most interested when the curriculum applies to more than just the textbook. The book is there — we can read a book. If we’re given projects that expand into other subjects and make us think, it’ll help us understand the information.”

All of these concepts are just good teaching. My personal favorites from the list include project-based learning and understanding your students.

PROJECT BASED LEARNING: If planned properly, project-based learning could be engaging learning experience for students. First of all, it can provide opportunities to include different learning styles. Secondly, you could allow students to choose what type of project they want to do, however at the same time they would all learn the same topic. Perhaps they would like to focus on drawing, writing, or even making a book. Lastly, students are able to take control of their own learning. They are researching and working on a final product that they will be proud of.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR STUDENTS: It’s so important to know your students. As teachers, we should know how our students best learn and their likes and dislikes. Sometimes we tend to teach or plan activities based on how we like to teach or learn. However, some students can’t learn like we do. Therefore, it is our responsibility as teachers to mix it up and make sure we are tailoring our lessons to all of our students.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in all of the “stuff” we have to do as teachers. However, it’s important to take a step back and remember our students needs and how they learn best.

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