We all know how important engagement is to helping students learn and retain information. Yet motivating students to engage in a lesson is a constant challenge.

how to motivate studentsIn the past, I’ve offered some examples of ways to motivate students by including them actively in the learning process. However, I LOVE to share examples I’ve learned from teachers like you who are in the trenches and doing this great work every day. Here’s some of their ideas for how they build enthusiasm for learning in their students.

The bubble gum machine
Ricki Miller keeps a bubble gum machine in the classroom. Instead of gum, it’s filled with plastic containers. Each container has a slip of paper in it, with a reward written on the paper such as “Sit with a friend for a day,” “Homework pass,” and so on.

Students earn “coins” when they participate in class, and these coins give them chances at the bubble gum machine.

Act it out
Some lessons that we have to teach are on dry topics. There’s no getting around it. However, Karen McKibbin of Niles High School in Michigan uses an interesting approach to hooking her students in to the topic.

When she’s teaching about the states of matter, she arranges the classroom desks in the shape of a beaker. The students in her classroom stand inside the “beaker” and are given instruction to behave as if they are particles of a solid, a liquid, or a gas. McKibbin then provides the “energy” to change the “particles” to a different state, while students act out the way they think a state of matter would change.

In another example, a journalism teacher (who didn’t want to share their name) told me that students in the class learn how to conduct an interview and write a news article by acting out a press conference. One student plays the part of the person being interviewed and the other students practice being reporters. After the “press conference,” students write an article or press release based on what they learned from interviewing their fellow student.

Are you willing to share your techniques for engaging students? Please share in the comments below, or email me your examples. I’d love to include your examples in a future blog post!


For more information about motivating students, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Motivating Students to Choose Success.

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