Student engagement is a challenge that each of us has encountered at some point within every year. It’s a lot to expect children to devote their full attention to school for eight hours straight. It is natural that they will lose focus at times, but there are strategies we can use to help them to increase this Self-Mangement skill of maintaining their focus. It’s also important to remember that engagement also involves interest, curiosity, and motivation. Are you familiar with Phillip Schlechty's five levels of engagement? His research has delineated five specific levels and engagement and what you can expect from them. You can read more about his theory here. For the sake of this post, I want to focus on engagement in relation to agency. ENGAGEMENT & AGENCY • The student sees the activity as personally meaningful. • The student’s level of interest is sufficiently high that he persists in the face of difficulty. • The student finds the task sufficiently challenging that she believes she will accomplish something of worth by doing it. • The student’s emphasis is on optimum performance and on “getting it right.”
Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are the two main ways that students can feel a sense of motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within – it does not require any outside factors to motivate, and the drive is personal, coming from within our students. Some children naturally come with this type of motivation whilst with others it must be cultivated. Extrinsic motivation involves some type of external motivation - a reward or return for completing the task in hand. I believe it’s important to create a healthy balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for students. Here are some of my tried and tested tips for creating an engaged classroom full of motivated students.
This is probably the holy grail of advice when it comes to classroom management and student engagement. While a comfortable and safe relationship with students isn’t going to solve every problem, it’s a great base point to start from.
Editable IBPYP Learner Profile
There are lots of ways you can incorporate student choice into the classroom. And a key suggestion to lead into independent inquiry is through choice boards. These are super easy to create. You can download the free choice board I made for How We Express Ourselves to get an idea so you can create your own. Essentially, you create a chart and fill in each box with a different activity students’ can complete. This allows you to add what you think needs to be included as well as having the children fill in some boxes with their own ideas too.
You can read more about differentiating the inquiry process in this article, Developing Student Led Inquiry.
Independent inquiry board for every celebration throughout the year.[/caption] You may know them as choice boards, tic tac toe etc They are a collection of guided options to encourage the children to make their own selections and can be used within any subject area, theme or concept. Function: Inquiry boards encourage the children to use their Approaches to Learning Skills(Research, Self Management, Thinking, Social & Communication) whilst showing their knowledge of skills that YOU as the facilitator, are directing. They act as a tool for formative assessment to integrate into any subject or a selection of subjects based around your unit of inquiry. I have multiple options already created for grades 3-5 that you look at below:
I have an informative read all about getting the children involved in the assessment process here. With the intention of giving them more of a voice, I have asked the children to help build our Tic Tac Toe boards. I prefer to do this with single subjects or one line of inquiry that we have been focusing on recently. For example, if I am focusing on fractions, then I will ask the children to work together in small groups to come up with a fun activity or inquiry that will show specific learning outcomes. Depending on the level of independence of your class, there are two ways to do this:
Regarding student agency, the children become the very part of planning which in itself enables critical thinking, communication and creativity! (You can read more about co-planning the inquiry here, if you wish. )They love to swap out their inquiry boards with other groups. I have also photocopied them and used them as a weekly review at a later time for the class. It's FABULOUS! It is an easy way to make the shift towards co-planning with the children. Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes. 🤗 You can try it out for FREE right here, from my TpT store.