3 Great Ways to Engage All Students

Many teachers (myself included) often fall into the rut of the traditional method of questioning students and checking for student understanding.  Traditionally while teaching, teachers will pause instruction, pose a question, and then choose an eager student with their hand waving in the air to respond.  While there is nothing wrong with this method, it fails to hold ALL students accountable for their learning.  This traditional whole class questioning method has never been able to show me that all of my students are with me and engaged in the learning process.  I want to know I am reaching them all! 

Because of this, I wanted to look for ways to promote equity in my classroom by allowing and even requiring all students to participate, answer, respond, and demonstrate their learning.  Here are three techniques I use in my classroom. 

Rainbow Dash        

For Rainbow Dash, I give each student four colored cards.  I usually will use cut sheets of red, orange, yellow, and green construction paper.  Each colored card corresponds to one of four possible answer choices.  For example, the four colors might correspond to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. As I am teaching, when a question is posed that requires one of those four operations, students will quickly grab the card that corresponds to the answer they think is correct and hold it up.  This is a great way to make sure that all students are actively listening and engaged.

Whiteboard Graffiti 

My students love whiteboard graffiti!  This can technique can easily be used across all content areas.  It forces my students to be attentively engaged in learning because they are never sure exactly when they will need to respond.  I use this technique at various points during my instruction.  When i'm ready to check for understanding, I simply stop and pose a rigorous thought provoking question.  Next, I give my students two minutes to come up with a short, one sentence answer and come up and write their sentence on the whiteboard.  After all students have "graffitied" their answer on the board, I have groups of students talk about anything they might notice about the responses they see. Were there any common answers? Did anybody say anything you did not think of?

Today I used this when asking students about the theme of a picture book.  Students were given 2 minutes to come up with what they thought the theme of the book was. Next they shared their one sentence on the board and had time to discuss responses in their table groups.

Quick Writes

When teaching a new concept, I like to pause and pose questions that force the students to think.  I will often have them them do a quick write, or quickly write out their thoughts or what they are learning. This is another method that can be used across the content areas.  I love this as my students know that they could be called on at any time to share or explain their thinking or learning.   

These are just a few of the things I do in my classroom to try to make sure that all of my students are actively engaged.  I'm always looking for new ideas.  What are some ways you hold every student accountable in your classroom for their participation in the learning process?            

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