How do we make learning meaningful for all learners? How do you know when students are engaged? These are questions that I have been asking myself recently. What I have found is that meaning is found in making connections and building trust within your community of learners. In the article Making School about the Connection by Joshua Block, he states that meaning comes from relationships, and sense of belonging. It also comes from exploration and self-expression.
To be truly engaged, students must feel safe sharing in their environment. Then, they need to be able to understand the material and internalized it, and make it their own. So, how do you know when students are truly engaged? Well, check out your class. What are they doing when you’re “not looking?” I peeked at my students this week , during Daily 5, to see if they were truly engaged, and I listened to their conversations ( because they are always talking) and I found that they were talking about …books, and reading, and making words together …exactly what I had taught them to do! ( There were a few who needed some additional reminders). They had moved from practicing the strategies to actually using them and talking about books with classmates.
I also took a peek while they were collaborating with peers about how to make our school a better community. And I witnessed these same students talking about ways to make some changes, or how to improve areas of our school. While it may look messy and sound loud, the class was truly engaged and took ownership of what they were doing.
Students also need to be flexible, and adaptable. They need to be able build relationships with their peers and establish trust. Maryellen Weimer writes about students who engage in higher level thinking in her article10 ways to Promote Student Engagement. Teachers who make the learning more active and meaningful will have more engaged learners.
Here is a list of resources for keeping students engaged. It is no small task.