Bored. Uninspired. Disheartened.

You’ve met these types of students and you know they aren’t bad students. They are just students who haven’t been reached…yet.

One of the toughest tasks we face as teachers, leaders, counselors, advisors, or even parents is to get the disengaged to become engaged with learning.

Three ways to create student engagement!

Students are more distracted than ever. Back in my day, the only distraction I had in class was the occasional passing of a note, the view out of the window, or the smell of the kid next to me. Our students have phones with a world of information in their pocket, an ever-shortening attention span…and the smelly kid to keep them distracted.

We have to be creative and ultimately different than the instruction we received as students because the tools that taught us won’t necessarily work with students of today. We have found three different ways to engage our students in a modern world.

3 Ways to Engage Students That Won’t Participate

1. You Get a Prize – We can’t all be Oprah and give everyone a car. But my guess is that you have materials you can spare/give away to students. The tip here is not to bribe the students, but instead make the prizes exclusive.

Create a system that encourages someone to talk before or after an activity by handing/tossing/throwing a “prize” to the participant who shared. Find prizes that will reach the disengaged instead of the already engaged.

2. Be a “Purple Cow” – In Seth Godin’s excellent book Purple Cow, he elaborates that the way to make a dent in the disengaged world may be as drastic as turning regular cows into purple cows.

He describes a family trip to England where they were enthralled by the beautiful countryside. In was more beautiful than anything they had ever seen. For awhile. Then it got mundane. They got used to the beauty. He argued that they needed a purple cow in the landscape to get their attention again.

We need to be purple cow leaders. Stand up on that desk. Wear a costume. Speak in a different tone of voice. Go outside. Have the students lay down. Have the students jump. Bring in props…I think you get the point. I like this guys idea of teaching.

3. Compete – There is a notion in education that competition is bad. I somewhat agree. Competition that shame or embarrass students should be eliminated. Competition that drives cooperation should be encouraged. We do this by eliminating elimination and creating subgroups.

If you are facilitating a lesson that would typically be elimination style (think a spelling bee)…instead of eliminating, send participants to start another competition. You could have as many as 4-5 groups competing at the same time. Instead of participants sitting around they are still engaged.

If we do these things we will be off to a good start to engage the disengaged. It takes small things to change a student’s live…let’s get to it!

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