How many times do you hear “student engagement” in a staff meeting or PLC? If we turned it into a drinking game, I think we would all need an Uber to get home after the meeting.
The term gets beat to death, but that’s because it is in fact important. It really just refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, or passion that students use to approach learning the topic at hand. That attention, curiosity, interest, or passion also determines the degree of motivation students have…and at the end of the day we all want curious and motivated students.
So, what if I told you that you could increase your student engagement without spending a penny and without changing a single lesson plan? Yep…my number one tip for increasing student engagement is absolutely free and totally easy. You just have to change your vocabulary.
Start using the word “game” whenever possible.
If the activity has pieces or parts…it’s a game.
If students have to stand or move…it’s a game.
If students take turns…it’s a game.
It’s not a cooperative learning structure…it’s a game.
It’s not a brain break….it’s a game.
It’s not a review…it’s a game.
It’s not an exploratory activity…it’s a game.
Now in your lesson plans, please still use the appropriate term for each type of activity, as we strive to always increase the knowledge base and professionalism that our field deserves. But with the kids…use the word “game”. There is something subconscious in students that perks up when they start thinking through the lens of playing versus learning. The word “game” is associated with fun and students who are having fun are paying attention. They are curious. They are interested. They are passionate. And they are motivated.
Just try it….the next time you introduce something as a game, look across the faces of your students and count the smiles!
Of course it never hurts to back up all your game talk, with some traditional games as well! Here are a few to try…