The COVID-19 pandemic has a huge impact on education, particularly student engagement and motivation. According to a survey conducted by EdWeek, Students self-report less motivation (50%) and lower morale (49%) as compared to their motivation and morale prior to the pandemic. We’re sure that many of your students would give similar answers. But it doesn’t need to be this way! Here’s some advice from fellow Florida educator Jess Campbell on how you can keep your students engaged in your in-person and virtual classrooms.
Consider your Classroom Environment
You want your classroom to be a place where you and your students want to spend time. Design your classroom space to inspire creativity and promote collaboration. Make it bright, unique, and fun. You can request posters and materials to make your classroom more inviting here.
Don’t be afraid to involve their other senses. Play music to set an environment for energetic work. You can find awesome playlist options here.
Sell the Real-World Connection
You got your students in the door. Awesome! But before your students buy in, you need to show them how they’ll use the skills you’re teaching. Otherwise, you get the dreaded “When am I ever going to use this?” question. You need to show your students that the skills you’re teaching them in the classroom translate to actual jobs. Plus, if your students are learning high level technology skills, they will see that the jobs they are qualifying for are growing faster and paying more than the average job.
Utilize Collaborative Projects
Students need to realize that their skills can be used in the real-world. However, in the workforce, people rarely work in isolation. Get students collaborating and working together.
Before you dive into a traditional team project, it’s important to distinguish the difference between group work and collaborative work. Jess did a wonderful job explaining the difference. “For me, group work is seeing four students together. One student is doing all the work, a couple look busy, and the other one is on the phone texting their girlfriend. It just doesn’t work.
Collaborative work is when each student shares an equal responsibility to making the project happen. For example, in my class we have students assigned to a team and each student is responsible for one portion of the website. That way each student has one section they are in charge of creating, and they aren’t penalized if one student doesn’t pull their share.”
Emphasize College Credit, Scholarships, and Awards
With projects in your classroom, your students are showing the skills they’ve learned. But are you helping them leverage these skills for higher education as well? Research the college credit options offered in your state. Scholarships for CTE certifications may be available. Tell students they can list these on their resumes and college applications. Jess had an amazing point too, “Here’s the real secret. Don’t tell the kids, tell their parents. Because the parents are the ones who really want to save the money on college tuition. If you tell the parents that their child can earn college credit from your class, they’ll be your best advocates.”
Give Awards in the Classroom
Students don’t need to wait until college to feel a sense of accomplishment in their certification achievement. Host contests with prizes. “I’ve done everything from printing a student’s t-shirt designs, to giving away cheap photography gear.” Do raffle drawings or create custom certificates. Show your students that you’re proud of their progress and learning. You can even work with your administration to have special graduation cords and medals created, so they can show off their achievement to family and friends on their special day.
Looking for more advice on how to connect with your students? Check out this article with advice from Kentucky educator, Andrew Bailey.