Pushing Through: Ideas for Student Engagement

Spring always presents a great opportunity for educators to try different digital tools or explore new ideas, especially as the school year winds down. Each spring, I notice that student engagement decreases, and I look for new ideas to boost engagement. Spring and the end of the school year present a great opportunity to bring new experiences into the classroom and even take some risks, especially as the year comes to a close and we reflect while also seeking new ideas for the upcoming school year.

When we provide students with experiences that will more meaningfully engage them with the content, also moving them from consumers to creators when we can, it will lead to an increase in student engagement and higher student achievement. Offering more choices helps us to better meet specific student interests and needs.

As we try to keep up the momentum through the end of what has not been an easy or typical school year and finish strong, adding in a few new or innovative ideas or bringing some game-based learning into our classroom, may create the boost that we all need!

Here are five tools and one idea to try before the end of this school year. Each offers something unique and in many cases, can be used for more than just one purpose. They can all be used for hybrid, virtual or in-person learning. Some options for game-based learning, quick assessments, or simply creating and sharing what students have learned! Also, a few of these might be used not just by teachers but can be opportunities for students to create with the content as well.

  • Figment AR: Storytelling or creating a quick check-in with students would be fun with Figment AR, one of my favorite augmented reality apps over the past few years. More than just AR, it also has portals that transform the experience into virtual reality. We have used it in class to create a quick story that includes animated characters, portals, and special effects.
  • Gimkit. While Gimkit has been around for a few years, the team continues to add new features and look for ways to boost student engagement and retention of content. It is one of many game-based learning tools available and has been a favorite with my students each year. Students have more personalized learning experiences because Gimkit promotes increased content retention through repetitive questions and the different options for playing in or out of the classroom. A new feature is Tag Domination which has been awesome in my classes, the student love it! There are additional modes to play in Gimkit and teachers receive detailed session reports with student progress to help guide their instruction.
  • Nearpod. Offers many options for promoting student engagement through its interactive multimedia platform and the ready-to-run lessons and activities now available. There are many options for a quick game of “Time to Climb” to do an assessment or an exit slip for example, or explore their VR library and find some immersive learning experiences to take students on a trip around the world! There are quick activities to choose from and even matching pairs or short interactive video lessons available. We can quickly add engaging and interactive lessons that also spark student curiosity by bringing some virtual reality into the classroom!
  • Skribbl.io, A fun drawing game that can be played by using lists available within the platform or adding your own vocabulary words, which I did in our Spanish class. Teachers then provide a code for students to join the game. There are different rounds and throughout the game, each player gets a chance to draw while the other players have to type in a guess of what the object is. Players are not able to see the words guessed by other players if they guessed correctly.

And one non-digital option to try is sketchnoting, which has been a favorite activity for a hobby and a great one for learning! Creating sketchnotes is helpful for visual learners when it comes to better retention of the content. The opportunity to draw and design symbols, which can be personal to each student, is fun and different and even students who do not like to draw much, enjoy doing sketchnoting. It can be done on paper or using one of the digital tools available. It is helpful with analyzing or conveying concepts and attaching more meaning as students decide how to demonstrate what they are learning. We have used sketchnotes in my STEAM course and my Spanish classes.

Thinking about the end of the year as teachers wrap up the content material or look for ways to review, perhaps for final exams in some courses or simply to take a break and try something different, these have been some recent favorite additions. Although these tools are not specific to one area of focus or grade level, hopefully, they offer new opportunities at the end of the year and that will lead to more meaningful and engaging learning experiences. They also provide more ways for students to create, through hands-on creation or interactive lessons, which work well in any learning space. By bringing in new technologies and opportunities, we better prepare students with the skills that they will need moving forward while also helping them to build essential SEL skills.

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