On Purpose: 3 Strategies for Engaging Students

One of the great benefits I have as a building principal is that of being able to spend lots of time in the classrooms of incredible teachers who work with amazing students.  I get to see and be involved in tons of phenomenal teaching and learning!

Over the past few days I noticed something really consistent about classrooms in which students seem authentically enthusiastic about learning and genuinely engaged in the process…the teachers are extremely intentional.  They’re doing the things that they do on purpose.  Go figure.  The following are three of the effective things that I’ve seen incredible teachers doing on purpose:

Positive patience.  There’s a lot going on in school at any given moment.  Teachers are constantly having to balance classroom management and academic pacing.  Today I saw it done masterfully.  This wonderful teacher found a way to circumvent frustration in favor of patience.  She was totally focused on making sure that her students were making meaning from the instruction that she was delivering.  It was like watching an artist at work.  She guided her first graders through a mini-lesson and multiple workshop rotations while also attending to each individual’s social, emotional, and communication needs.  She was positive and patient.  It was clear that she had a comprehensive learning experience in mind the whole way through.

Play.  Kids like to have fun.  We all like to have fun!  Let’s face it, when we’re enjoying ourselves learning is enhanced.  Sometimes, when we’re enjoying ourselves we don’t even realize that we are learning, we’re too wrapped up in the fun.  During those times we can sustain engaged learning for extended periods of time.  I was in a fourth grade class yesterday in which the students were playing multiplication-strategy board games that they created, game boards, game pieces, and instructions included.  I was thrilled at the fact that this relatively large group of students were scattered around the classroom working (playing) in small groups, digging in to meaningful learning with enthusiasm!  It was great.

Shared engagement.  Finally, I saw a book club that was as jam-packed with as many reading enthusiasts as any book club I’d ever seen.  The key was that the incredible teacher leading it was one of the enthusiastically engaged members!  Her modeled joy for being a part of that shared reading experience was outstanding.  It was contagious!  I wanted to be a part of the group.  I have to admit that I felt a bit left out.  Her energy and enthusiasm made it clear that this book club was awesome!  She made it cool to read and discuss, and her students picked up on that in a major way.

These are just a few examples of strategies that I’ve seen working.  As you know, there are plenty more.  The commonality and the key is that teachers who keep student engagement in mind and address it with intentionality seem to get the best results!  What do you do to engage your students in meaningful learning?  What might you try next?

Live. Learn. Lead.


Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

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