Five Learning Activities to Increase Student Engagement

Student engagement is a topic that is constantly being discussed by teachers, administrators, and parents alike.  While all of these stakeholders know what student engagement looks like, it is often times unclear how to get students actively engaged in a lesson. I am going to suggest a variety of activities to increase student engagement in your classroom using both modern technology and traditional classroom instruction.

 1 - Jigsaw Activities

  After reading a story, article, or book, I split students into small groups and assign each group a concept to focus on.  After the students have discussed their concept, I split the groups up again so that each group has one member from each original group.  Each student will be responsible for sharing with his or her classmates what was discussed in the first group. The beauty of the Jigsaw Activity is that each student in the classroom is held accountable for disseminating information to other members of the class. 

2 - Dialectical Journals 

  A dialectical journal allows readers to have a conversation with the text as they read.  When my students do independent reading, I ask them to "have a conversation with the text" by writing down significant passages, the page numbers, and their reactions to the text.  If we are reading as a class, I will do the same activity or modify it by filling in one of the two sides of the dialectal journal and having students fill in the other column as we read.  

3 - Human Likert Scale 

A likert scale is a polling method that asks participants to rate statements on a 1 - 7 scale.  A likert scale can be used as a random polling method in your classroom.  I will use this method when I want a consensus of the class on a variety of topics:  comprehension of a concept, choices for activities, etc.  

4 - Nontraditional Book Reports and Summaries 

Students who struggle with reading and writing are put in a very bad place when it comes time to write book reports or summarize chapters, stories or articles.  Since these students struggle with reading and writing, by nature they will dislike and struggle with reading and summarizing assignments.  Why not let them decide how they will summarize their reading?  Students can make movies, comic strips, or PowerPoint presentations to demonstrate their comprehension of the material.  These activities can be done with or without technology, but of course your students will prefer to use technology to tell their stories.  A few resources that I have found useful include Prezi, Animoto, and Makebeliefcomix.  

5 - Student Choice and Voice in Learning Activities

The best way to engage students is to listen to what they have to say about your learning activities and give them a voice in what they do.  If students feel that they have been a part of planning a lesson, then they will naturally be more engaged in what they are doing.  Once that happens, comprehension and content mastery will sky rocket.  Giving students choice and voice can be as simple as taking suggestions from them about projects or differentiating your instruction by choice.  Keep your ears open to what your students have to say about your learning activities and you will be surprised by how this one simple thing will increase the engagement of your students.

This list is by no means exhaustive.  Every educator has different techniques in their "teacher tool box" to engage students.  These are five activities that have worked for me and that I use as go-to activities to engage my students.   What are some activities that guarantee student engagement in your room?   Leave your ideas as a comment. 


  1. I've heard of most of these methods and I think they're great when appropriate. However, if we're talking about motivation, I think the motivation equation deserves at least a mention: motivation = expectancy for success X value of task. You could be offering great options for book reports and topics but if the students don't find it meaningful or believe that they can do well, they won't be motivated. For example, I had a class in which my TA had us jigsaw our readings several times. I think the concept of jigsaw is great but in this instance most of us did not find the readings valuable or worth our time. Instead, we would skim them AT MOST and then just talk about our own opinions.


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