How to make learning fun and engaging

We’ve all witnessed, with relish, the flash of interest in our students’ eyes, grudging happily as the bell rings because no one wants the period to end. How do we extend these moments? How do we create an environment that keeps students stimulated and craving more?

As per Whitney Rapp and Katrina Arndt, authors of Teaching Everyone: An Introduction to Inclusive Education it is incumbent upon educators to “recruit student’s interest” by finding ways to make learning “relevant, authentic, and valuable” in students’ lives. That said, what are the best strategies to use to engage learners?

Firstly, use games as an instructional strategy. It doesn’t matter if you are 2 or 25 years old, everybody loves to play games. Unconsciously learning takes place with a lot of fun if learners are engaged in a game. Say they need to learn important vocabulary words for science, play Jeopardy!  If they need to remember specific dates in social studies, play memory. For textual analysis, use Hot-seating or Running Dictation. If you are teaching communication skills or even the periodic table, why not play a game of dice? You can even jumble the sentences in a paragraph and have them play Speedo to rearrange the sentences back to the correct order. Any kind of game will help to make your class more interesting as well as keep them engaged.

Secondly, nothing works magic like reality in the classroom. When you create a real-world connection to what students are learning, it gives them a greater understanding of why they need to learn it. If your students are constantly asking you why they need to learn something, and you always are answering with “because you have to,” you will lose credibility with your students. While teaching cover letters, I once used statistics of the number of graduates we have in Rwanda every year in my class and my students noted the competition and understood why they needed to write job-winning cover letters.  If students are learning math tell them about the need to write out checks, pay bills, buy groceries, figure out how much tax to deduct and exchange currency. This will help them understand why they must learn what they are learning now for their future.

Similarly, you need to make learning more interactive. A traditional classroom setting, where the teacher is standing in the front of the classroom lecturing to students as they take notes is boring. If you want your students to be interested in what you are teaching them, you must make it interactive. Get them involved in everything that you are teaching. Try the jigsaw cooperative learning method, where students work together as a team to learn and complete a task. By involving students and making it hands-on, you inadvertently ignite their interest to learn.

While at it, give them alternatives. Choice menus aren’t just for elementary and primary school students. High school and university students will be just as happy when they get the opportunity to choose what, and how they will learn content.  You can create different choice boards based on the student. Struggling students can work on one board while more advanced students can work on another. It’s not only a great way to differentiate learning, but it keeps students interested and engaged as well.

Overall, talk less and involve students more. The more you make your class interactive, the more your students will enjoy what they are learning.

The writer is a Language Consultant