In all the conversations that surround student engagement and learning, the focus almost always leans toward student activities and away from teacher-led instruction. These activities are very important to learning. As I often tell my teachers, “Whoever is doing the most work is doing the most learning.” Most of the time, we want the students doing the work. But as leaders and teachers, we can’t focus solely on what the students are doing—we have to also consider what the teacher is doing.
Why is it critical to think about how engaging we are from the front of the room? The truth is, despite our best intentions in education, this is still where most of the instruction and activity comes from.
Today’s Students Are Used to Tech
First, educators know that hands-on learning experiences for students are usually far superior to any lecture we can provide. Because of this, if we feel we need to talk to the students as a whole class, we have to make the lecture engaging, fun, and downright entertaining. If we think about the media that students have at home—and that many of them have 50”, 60”, or 70” TVs—we know that displaying from an overhead projector is not going to engage or excite them. This is why technology like the ProColor interactive display is so important to student learning. We have to have something at the front of the room that will engage the students and catch their attention.
Another truth of engaging students as a whole class is that they listen to one another much more readily and willingly than they listen to adults. This is where the MimioSpace collaborative system comes in. It is so vitally important to classroom engagement to have students helping and sharing with other students. This can, and should, occur from the front of the room, just like it does during group work. When students come to the board to demonstrate learning for the interactive touch software, the rest of the class is much more likely to be engaged and focus on what is going on. They are also motivated to pay attention if they might be the next one up and ready to teach from the front of the room.
Getting Students Involved in the Learning
In order to really keep the attention of our students, we must engage all of their senses as we are teaching—or at least as many of their senses as we can. Incorporating audio, visual, graphics, and video throughout a presentation creates higher levels of engagement for the students. Forgetting this simple concept can allow some students to disengage from the start. One great solution to this is the SoundLite™ classroom sound system, which supports engagement for all students in the room, no matter where they sit.
Some of the best tools I have seen to really get every student engaged and involved are formative assessment tools that allow for teachers to check for understanding throughout the course of a lesson. The MimioMobile™ assessment application allows teachers to check for engagement in a real-time atmosphere after they have provided content and instruction.
An additional way teachers can ensure engagement while teaching in a whole-group setting is by being able to move around the classroom while instructing. I’ve seen two great classroom management ideas for this. Teachers can use the MimioMoblie app, and they can also designate a student to operate the board from the front of the room for them. This allows for the teacher to circulate around the room and ensure all students are awake and engaged while providing a student a special job to run the MimioBoard touch board for the day.
If you polled most teachers and asked if a “sit and get” lecture is a great way to provide instruction, the vast majority would tell you no. But even though this is the case, lecture and whole-group instruction still occur a majority of the time in many classrooms. We can work with teachers to provide active student engagement and hands-on learning experiences, but at the same time, we need to provide tools for them to use to engage the class from the front of the room. These strategies and resources can help any teacher keep their students awake, engaged, and learning throughout any whole group lesson.
Want to learn more about a variety of tools and resources to help you keep your students engaged? Check out our whole-class learning page, where you’ll find videos, podcasts, blogs, and tech to help increase learning in your classroom.