I was talking with a friend the other day about how sometimes things that may seem like old news or obvious to one teacher could be a totally new idea to another teacher. And we often keep these ideas to ourselves because we don’t want to insult the other by offering up a “duh” suggestion. This got me thinking about strategies or tips that I think are really great and assume all other teachers know about. But what if you don’t?! Well, I’m not going to let my fear of suggesting a “duh” idea hold me back anymore! I have collected a few different engagement strategies that can be used in any classroom and that I think every teacher should know about. First up, vocabulary!
Description: Students work in groups to match definitions and/or examples with vocabulary words.
- Post envelopes with a vocabulary word written on each one around the room.
- Group students and assign each group a color.
- Place a set of definitions and/or example cards printed in the group’s assigned color face down in the middle of each group.
- Have students take turns drawing from the stack, sharing what’s on the card with the group. Group members decide in which envelope to place the definition or example. The student that drew the card will race to put the card in the envelope. The game proceeds with the next student and then the next until all cards have been placed in an envelope.
- Tally each group’s points based on the number of definitions correctly placed.
Click here for a FREE Tools of Geometry set of vocabulary terms, definitions, and examples to use with this activity!
I HAVE, WHO HAS (A TWIST)
Description: Students must interact to find a partner who has the corresponding card.
- Give half of the class term cards and the other half definition cards.
- Students walk around, asking each other questions, to find their card’s match.
*This would be a great beginning-of-class activity to review vocabulary words AND get students paired up for a different partner activity.
Description: This is a game of charades with a fun twist! Students will try to get their teammates to say the correct vocabulary word over the course of three different rounds by describing the vocabulary term, saying one word related to the vocabulary term, and acting out the vocabulary term. This game works best as an end-of-unit review of vocabulary.
- Split students into two teams.
- Write each vocabulary term on a small strip of paper and place in a bowl.
- Teams will take turns trying to guess as many vocabulary terms as they can in a specified time limit (around 30 seconds works great).
- In the first round, a student will pick a piece of paper and describe the word without actually saying the word. After correct guesses, they keep drawing words until the time limit is up and it’s the next team’s turn. Keep a tally of how many words the teams guess correctly each round. The round will last until all words have been drawn from the bowl.
- The second round works just like the first except students will only be allowed to say one word to get their teams to guess the correct vocabulary term. For example, a student could say “halfway” to get their team to guess “midpoint”.
- In the third and toughest round, students will act out the words. While this may be difficult for most mathematical terms, by this point, students should know all of the vocabulary terms that are in the bowl.
We all know how hard it can be to encourage participation in whole-class questioning + discussion. There are usually several students willing and eager to answer every question, a few who will answer only if called on, and the rest who would rather go a day without their phones than answer a math question out loud 😅. Below are two strategies I like to use to make sure all students are given the opportunity to participate in class discussions and answer questions.
NUMBERED HEADS TOGETHER
Description: Students work together in pairs or small groups to answer a question. Any group member may be called upon to report the group’s answer.
- Place students into groups and assign each group a letter.
- Assign each student within the group a number.
- Ask your first question and give students time to collaborate within each group to reach a consensus on the answer.
- Call a number. The student from each table with the corresponding number reviews the answer with the group members and prepares to share the answer with the class.
- Randomly select a letter to determine which group shares the answer with the class. If an answer is incorrect, choose another group to answer.
- Continue the process with all the questions.
POPSICLE STICKS/NAME JAR
Description: This is a twist on the traditional name jar that increases student accountability throughout the entire class period, while also ensuring all students are called on to participate.
- Gather necessary supplies: popsicle sticks (I like to use a different color for each class), a small bucket, and a small cup that fits inside the bucket.
- Write each student’s name on a popsicle stick.
- Glue the cup inside the bucket, making sure it is not visible to students. You may have to cut down the height of the cup some.
- Place popsicle sticks inside the bucket.
- As students are randomly called on by drawing their popsicle stick, you have the choice to place the popsicle stick back into the bucket (where they may be called again) or into the small cup that you don’t draw from.
- Continue drawing names from the bigger bucket. The trick is that ALL students feel they may be called on, staying engaged + alert.
You can read more about this engagement strategy for your classroom here!
Have you ever found yourself in a rut when it comes to activities for students to do to reinforce their learning? I can always tell when I’m in one of those ruts because my lesson plans look like worksheet after worksheet. And, sometimes, worksheets are what make the most sense, but most of the time it’s simply a lack of inspiration. So, I want to share three activities that will both enhance student learning AND keep students engaged!
Description: Students interact and use language to give and receive instructions to complete a task.
- Instruct students to sit back-to-back.
- Have one student facing the board or projector screen.
- The student facing the board will have to describe what they see to their partner to get them to complete the task or draw the image. Some math-related examples of this include describing a graph or an image of angles.
- After a specified amount of time has passed, allow students to compare their work to the original image and discuss.
- Instruct students to switch places and repeat with a new task or image.
This activity is great to reinforce vocabulary. I like to start the activity by having students recall the current academic language we are using in that unit and write those words on the board so that students see them while giving instructions to their partner.
FIND THE FIB
Description: Students work together to figure out which two statements are true and which statement is false.
- Divide the students into groups.
- Provide each group with a set of cards with three statements/problems on each card. One statement is false and two statements are true.
- Allow the groups to collaborate and decide which statement is false.
With some creativity, this activity can work with any content. For math specifically, I immediately think of using it when teaching conditional statements in geometry, identifying types of behavior like even/odd or positive/negative in graphs, with always/sometimes/never statements, or as vocabulary definition practice.
Description: A group-generated poster that reflects all students’ learning.
- Provide students with a rubric to guide poster design.
- Group students and assign each group member a different color marker so that each student’s contribution is evident.
- Have students work together to create a poster based on recent learning.
This activity is great at the end of a unit where each group is assigned a different concept to review but also works well after a heavy lesson to help students summarize all they learned.