Increasing student engagement in the classroom should not be hard to do. Whether it be at the beginning of the school year, or even most of the way through, it is important to connect with your students. Using growth mindset to increase student engagement is one of the best skills you can develop as a teacher!
We have developed a Growth Mindset questionnaire that you can download for FREE by clicking here. It is designed to get feedback from your students that will help you with increased student engagement. You will find out their favorite types of music, what books they like to read, what topics interest them, what you can do as a teacher to make learning fun, and a place to let them tell you what they want more of in the classroom. It finishes up with some true/false questions that will be interesting to tabulate when they have been collected.
Once you have collected all the questionnaires from your students, it is time to dig in and look at the data. The first thing we do is write down all the musicians and the songs that the students have selected. We then go on the internet and look up the lyrics. Any songs that have vulgar language, sexual overtones, or other inappropriate things we immediately eliminate. We then start making a playlist of these songs. Our goal is to be able to play the student-selected songs during different parts of the school day. We have done this before and the students love it. They can’t wait to hear their songs! (Below is a sample of the first page).
The second thing we do is look at the types of books our students have selected as their favorites. We once again write down what they have written on the questionnaire. We then look for patterns and see if those type of books already exist in our classroom library. The next day we have our students re-design our library. They love this! We give them the new categories that they have created and they start to organize our books into bins based on this. If there are any topics that we don’t have, we go to the Scholastic Book Clubs site and start to use our bonus points, or our own money to purchase books. Adding books that students are interested in definitely raises student engagement!
Next, we take a look at the suggestions the students gave us of what we can do as teachers to help increase attention and motivation to learn. There are usually great suggestions such as: icebreakers, more partner work, games, listen to music when working and many others. It is great to see these suggestions from students and then implementing them in the classroom. They get excited when they know that they played a part in adding these elements into the school day.
The next thing we review are the true and false questions at the bottom. The answers are all “true,” but we often find a few students that may say “false” for some of them. This can be eye-opening! Those are the students that you need to target and instill that confidence and show them that they can succeed!
A Must Have Resource for the Classroom
Probably the best concept we have incorporated into our teaching for student engagement is Genius Hour. Genius Hour is a time for ALL students to learn about something that interests them. This learning takes place during the school day. It is based on Google’s 20% theory. Google wanted to increase productivity in their workers, so they developed a time during each work week for its employees to spend time on something they are passionate about. Out of this time came the creations of Gmail and Google News! Google found that it’s workers were more engaged and excited to come to work.
So, taking this theory into the classroom can also spark motivation in students. Each student has a passion; a deep down desire to learn and research about something that is of interest. It is our job as educators to find that passion and to give our students time to explore and research about what they are excited about. It’s our favorite way to use growth mindset to increase student engagement.
To get Genius Hour started in the classroom, we have developed detailed steps for a teacher to use.
1) Spark Interest
We have created an introductory PowerPoint that will get the students excited to start the project. The presentation is engaging and involves the think-pair-share strategy which gets kids talking! You can purchase it by clicking here or on the picture below.
2) Teacher Tips
A Genius Hour project would not be complete without helpful Teacher Tips! It includes resource ideas, teacher tips and steps, and what to do with struggling students. This two page resource is full of great ideas for how to implement Genius Hour in your classroom. It is included in our Genius Hour Bundle.
Parents are key to helping make this a successful project for their children. We have included a parent letter that outlines what Genius Hour is. It also includes ways that they can get involved with their child’s project. It also calls out to them if any are experts in a certain field. They may be able to even assist other students in the classroom with their projects!
At the heart of Genius Hour is the actual research that the students will conduct to find the answers to their essential question. We firmly believe that students should be taught the correct way to cite sources. So we developed a Bib Tips handout and a Bibliography tracking guide so students can show us what sources they used for their projects. We want them to take ownership in being responsible enough to document the evidence they find and where it came from. This is a necessary skill that they should all learn how to do!
5) Weekly Updates
As your students work on their projects each week, it will be important to check up on their daily and weekly progress. Besides the informal check-ins you will do throughout the week, it is important to have them document what their progress is each week to keep them on track. We have a weekly reflection sheet that keeps the students accountable. This is also included in our Genius Hour Bundle.
Your students will want to share their passion projects with the class. In order to do this, it will be important to go over tips on what makes a good presentation. We have created a Presentation Toolkit and Rubric that we use in our classroom to show our students what we expect during the presentation and how their final project will be graded. Showing the expectation ahead of time allows the students to fine-tune their projects and practice their presentations with a clear focus.
Students love to get certificates for just about anything. Included with our Genius Hour bundle we have certificates of completion for each student. It is something they can take away from the project and be proud of, besides all the hard work that they have done to complete their projects.
Genius Hour is sure to be a hit in your classroom! We would love to hear your success stories with your students!
Increasing student engagement does not have to be difficult. We hope we have provided you with some resources to be able to achieve that!