So many of our students have so little that is in their control that they latch onto the things they can control. As teachers, this can make it difficult to keep these students engaged rather than entering into a battle of the egos with them. While it is difficult to strike the balance between sharing control while still maintainning order, these six strategies will go a long way to helping to walk that line.
The simplest of choices can be very empowering to students, even if they seem silly and trivial to you. As a matter of fact, if it is trivial and doesn't matter to you, why not allow students to make that choice? Giving them control over the little things can lead to a sense of ownership of their work which leads to higher levels of engagement.
Some examples of choices to let students make:
Pen or pencil to complete the assignment
Color or cut first
Work independently or with a partner
Responsibility of Special Tasks
There is nothing quite like a special task to get a student on your side. This might mean running an errand, sharpening pencils, or being time keeper. It really doesn't matter what the task is. What does matter is the importance you place on the task. If you emphasize how much it means to you that they are completing the task, it will carry weight with them.
Some examples of tasks:
Turning off the lights
Making sure the projector is turned off
Bring a note to the office or another teacher
Ask for Opinions and Thoughts
This one is easy as pie. It just takes an extra second to ask the student what they think about something. What makes this one even better is that you can easily integrate it into content or social conversation seamlessly.
Do you agree with their reasoning?
What did you think of lunch today?
Do you think it's too cold to go out for recess?
Class Agenda Box
This one is another easy peasy method to get students involved in the process of forming a classroom community. All you need is a box, I used a decorated used tissue box, and some paper. Students are able to write their concerns on a piece of paper and put it in the box either with their name or anonymously. During your class meetings you draw out a slip of paper, read the concern, and discuss it with the class.
Of course, as the teacher I read all of the concerns before hand. This way I could speak with the student as necessary or do a little investigating and brainstorming before the meeting.
Another simple to institute plan is to involve students in a class vote from time to time. Now this doesn't mean that every decision should be ran past the class, but there are plenty that can be.
You might vote on:
A class game to play at recess
A whole class reward
To work independently or in partners
Giving students just a tiny bit of leadership status within the class can go a long way, especially when they feel they lack control among their peers. This might mean giving them a job within the classroom or even just a title that doesn't really mean much, like table captain.
You have to be careful with this strategy though, because the power can go to some students heads, but when used sparingly it can really do the trick!
Want to Know More?
These are some of my favorite books about classroom management and student engagement.