3 Quick and Easy Ways to Boost Student Engagement

The opposite of student engagement is boredom. You know it when you look out at your classroom of students, and they are fidgeting, yawning, staring out the window, and talking to each other while you are presenting a lesson. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You need to cover important standards or topics. How can you save this lesson? These 3 Quick and Easy Ways to Boost Student Engagement can be planned ahead or used at the moment when you notice students checking out.

Here are just a few ideas that you can quickly implement in your classroom today without extensive planning or prep. Nobody has time for more planning and prep.

Make It Hands – On

Whenever possible, give students something to do.


One word. Manipulatives.

In every way possible, give students math manipulatives during instruction and practice. Kids LOVE hands-on activities, and they will be engaged BIG TIME if you give them manipulatives (or, as students call them, “toys”).

Make sure you have pre-taught your rules and procedures for use of manipulatives before using them in lessons.

Set a timer and tell them this is their time to play. After the timer goes off, it’s my time and they have to follow directions for use of manipulatives. This usually works!

Literacy Based Lessons and Activities

How can you provide hands-on activities with literacy activities?

Students should have a pencil and post-it notes, spiral notebooks, or some other type of paper to write on in every lesson. Students should stop and jot frequently whether they are reading independently, in small groups, or during a whole class lesson.

  1. Independent Reading: Stop and jot a summary of the page they just read.
  2. Small Group Reading: Stop, jot, and tell your neighbor what you just read.
  3. Whole Group Reading: Teacher stops and students jot what they just heard and read.

In every situation, students are DOING something with their hands. It keeps them engaged in the reading process and the text they are reading. It helps you to chunk the lesson into manageable time frames because you are stopping and asking students to do the learning. This is especially helpful for struggling readers.

Get Them Moving

Simon Says

Simon Says. This straightforward game is so engaging and perfect for a quick brain break during lessons. I played this with my 3rd and 4th graders, and they loved it!

Scoot Games

If you use task cards for any subject, you can turn that activity into a Scoot game that gets kids moving. Moving kids are engaged.

How to Play Scoot: Place one task card on each student’s desk. Give students paper and a pencil. Students move from desk to desk completing the task cards.

Go Noodle

If you haven’t checked out Go Noodle, you are missing out! This site has free brain break content that you can access quickly if you need a way for your students to move in the classroom. There are so many different options, I am sure you will find just the right brain break for your group!

Teacher Talk versus Student Talk

If you are talking for more than 10 minutes at a time during a lesson – it is too much. Students learn by talking about their learning with each other and you – not passively listening. In fact, kids talk a lot, and sometimes it is hard to control, so give them something to talk about.

When planning a lesson, come up with three questions that you can pose to students during the lesson. After asking the question, have students turn and talk to a partner. While they are talking, walk around and listen. You will be so surprised and gratified at what you hear!

Give students a turn and talk question or task on the fly. It’s not as good as a planned question, but it will increase engagement immediately. 

It’s better to have engaged students working with a good question than bored students who don’t hear that carefully planned one!

The key to success with student talk is to make it accountable. You don’t want students straying off-topic or wasting instructional time, so make it count. Make the question or topic specific. Give students direction on how to talk about their learning. It’s not something they will master immediately, but don’t despair – they WILL get it!

If the thought of using accountable talk in your classroom seems intimidating, rest assured it’s not as hard as you may think! Check out this post that will help you implement accountable talk in your classroom!

The Secret to Turning Classroom Chatter Into Accountable Talk

Improving student engagement doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. It can be as easy as stopping a lesson and letting kids move or giving them a post-it note. Improving student engagement also improves classroom management. Giving students something to do keeps them from finding something to do when they should be doing something else.

What are some of the ways that you have engaged your students in a lesson?

Pin this post to your Classroom Management Pinterest Board for later!

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