6 Budget-Friendly Ideas to Keep Your Students Engaged this Year

As a teacher, you know firsthand that students often respond to experiential and interactive learning methods, not to mention they often remember these lessons more vividly. Regurgitating information from a textbook might be today’s prevailing academic model, but you understand that students are more likely to absorb this information when they recognize the real-world applications.

So, the question becomes: how can you supplement their core curriculum with age-appropriate and cost-effective activities that engage? The obvious answer is through technology, but this medium—despite its visual and hands-on appeal—can be expensive.

Fortunately, there are other tools at your disposal to engage students’ attention and arouse their excitement. These budget-friendly ideas, for both inside the classroom and out, will help make each lesson memorable and, therefore, more effective.

Make the following “6 Rules of Engagement” your educational compass this year. Bonus: they all begin with “E” to promote rapid recall—because teachers already have enough to remember!

Encourage Them to Get Moving

Physical movement sparks mental focus, so designate classroom time for students to leave their desks and experience a more kinesthetic learning approach. Combine specific actions with academic stimuli through games that correspond with the concept you’re teaching.

For instance, to make arithmetic more interesting, supervise a “chalkboard relay” competition, where students take turns standing at the chalkboard, writing a math equation, then racing against their classmates to see who can get the correct answer the fastest.

Emphasize the Value of Teamwork

Although the term “group project” often evokes a negative connotation among both teachers and students, participating in collaborative efforts is a necessary life skill. Intersperse your lectures with project-based learning activities, that bring lessons into the real world and engage students outside of the traditional lecture, read and show-what-you-know style. Give some of these PBL ideas a try.

Exit the Classroom

Watching a textbook image materialize up close and personal captivates your students and provides the ideal teaching backdrop for you. Unfortunately, field trip funds seem to run lower and lower each year, making it more challenging to get out of the classroom without spending your own money.

Luckily, many museums, aquariums and zoos offer free or discounted admission for teachers and students, making the financial burden a little easier. And don’t rule any opportunities out­—even well-known places like the Philadelphia Zoo and SeaWorld offer these discounts.

Check out this list of free and discounted opportunities for teachers from USA Test Prep and then plan a few engaging field trips for your curious students.

Experiment with Teaching Styles

There are three basic learning modalities—visual, auditory and tactile—but do you use all of them to reach students in the classroom? If not, consider periodically changing your classroom manner to accommodate all three approaches and connect with each type of student.

For example, create a visual presentation with eye-catching PowerPoint slides and colorful imagery to inspire the visual learners. Then, assign everyone a different passage from their textbook to read aloud, stimulating the auditory learners. Finally, organize a group activity that incorporates simple choreographed movements, patterns or rhythms to energize the tactile learners.

Exchange Post-Lecture Dialogue

Lectures quickly become tedious and redundant for the youthful, hyperactive minds staring back at you, so counteract the typical “zoning out” behavior by reinforcing student participation instead.

Prior to a lecture, communicate the topic using just one key phrase, for instance, The Civil War, and then instruct students to write five predictions about what you’ll cover based on their previous knowledge or assumptions.

Suggest that they listen carefully to the lecture to see if any of their predictions were accurate. Afterward, have a discussion on how their preconceptions fared against the historical facts.

Engineer Role Playing Activities

Since test preparation is intimidating for most students, give them a chance to experience a review session from your perspective—by teaching the material they are reviewing. Allow students to rotate back and forth in five-minute intervals so that everyone receives an opportunity to teach the material that will appear on their upcoming test.

Encourage a creative delivery of the content, making it digestible for their fellow students. For example, they could pass around fill-in-the-blank study guides and practice quizzes, coordinate an interactive review game or choose volunteers to dramatize a concept.

This is a guest post from contributing writer, Jessica Thiefels. Jessica Thiefels is the editor of Whooo’s Reading and an education blogger who’s been featured in publications such as EdTech Digest and Daily Genius. Her favorite books growing up were My Side of the Mountain and The Giver, and she hopes to inspire a similar love of reading in students and educators.

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