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NMSI Blog

Creating an Engaged Classroom

Alright teachers, school is officially upon us – so how does your classroom look? How are the dynamics between you and your students? Are you having trouble keeping their attention as you walk them through their lessons? Are they struggling to shake off their summer vacation mindsets and really focus and contribute to the task at hand? Perhaps you are just having trouble relating to your students? Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly understandable if you’re running into these problems, and that’s why we’re here to help. Straight from the minds of our terrific math, science, and English subject matter experts, here are the top three strategies for getting your diverse group of young learners excited about school!


1.Develop three levels of questioning. Level one questions are literal – they rely on the student’s ability to recall information from any given text; level two questions are inferential – they ask the student to interpret the text and critically think about its meaning and come to their own conclusions; and level three questions are universal – they make the student connect with the text and relate it to their own lives and experiences. As a teacher, you must provide multiple opportunities for the students to engage with all three levels of questioning in order to help them develop their critical thinking skills. And if you do this, you may be surprised by how interested your students become in the subject at hand. However, you have to present the questions in the right way, which brings us to our second point.

2.Understand your students – and show them you do. One of the biggest challenges to creating an engaged classroom is relating to the students. You want to be the teacher who gets on the student’s level and engages them in the learning process. To do this, you must create lessons with student voice and choice in mind. Kids today speak and think in different ways than previous generations, so you must be prepared to adapt your teaching to their way of receiving. It won’t matter how many questions you ask if you don’t ask them the right way. Lessons created with student decision-making in mind can engage students with relevance and bolster their critical thinking skills – both of which are things you want happening all over your classroom. But don’t limit yourself to just pen and paper lessons, either. Engaging activities in the classroom – or even outside activities/lessons – go a long way in helping students learn the material.

3.Challenge your students, but not overly so. One tremendously effective way to keep your students engaged is by giving them challenging coursework, but you have to be careful not to overwhelm them. Pressure refines coal into diamonds, but too much can cause even the strongest beam of steel to snap. You must help your students handle their coursework by offering enough scaffolding and support so they don’t get frustrated. A frustrated classroom means that your students are shutting down, and that will only cause more stress for everyone. And as a bonus suggestion, if you find your class becoming stagnant, don’t be afraid to shuffle things up. Toss in a surprise activity that gets the students up and moving. Over at EducationWorld, Emma McDonald has some great ideas for engaging activities in the classroom that we think your students would love. And once the students are up and about, reassign the seating arrangement. You might get some complaints, but sometimes a simple change like that is all you need to realign your classroom and reinvigorate student creativity.

We hope these suggestions will inspire some new ideas for you to try out with your students to help them get hooked on math and science. Because that’s what school is all about, right? Inspiration, creativity, learning, and growth – all of these things should be present and actively moving through your classroom!