Teaching is a hard job and one of the hardest parts is figuring out how to get students excited about learning. It is the worst feeling in the world slaving over lesson plans, coming up with “engaging” lessons and activities only to look around the room and see students yawning, laying their heads down or just looking disinterested. We’ve all been there. It hurts, but then the next step has to be asking yourself, “What can I do to fix things?” You have to ask, “How can I get my students excited about learning?”
Those of you who are new to the blog may be wondering, why should I listen to you tell me how to get students excited about learning? Well, I’m glad you’ve asked and I’d be worried if you didn’t. So quickly, I’m a veteran educator with over 15 years in education. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish, a Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. I have mostly taught in the elementary setting and have spent the last seven years in gifted education, with a focus on creating project based STEM lessons. During that time, I have focused on differentiating my lessons to increase student engagement, so I’ve learned a thing or two about how to get students excited about learning.
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Now that you trust me to give you advice on how to get students excited about learning, let’s talk a little about student engagement. First of all, let’s talk about what student engagement is:
What is Student Engagement and What does it Have to Do with How to Get Students Excited about Learning?
Student engagement, according to edglossary.org is “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.” It is the belief in education and it seems obvious that if a student is interested in or inquisitive about what they are learning then they will have an easier time learning the material and they will maintain that knowledge as well. With this background in student engagement, you can see what it has to do with how to get students excited about learning.
Now, any educator will tell you that there are literally millions of “ways” to increase student engagement and far too many sources that tell you they can help you figure out how to get students excited about learning. You may be wondering, how do you figure out which “ways” are actually effective? Well, you want to make sure that the methods you are using to figure out how to get students excited about learning are research based, have data to prove that they work and are realistic for the resources you have and your student population.
I am going to share with you how to get students excited about learning using 11 research based and data proven methods that can be implemented in most settings with little need for extra resources. I went through a lot of trial and error and experimentation to get most of these right, but now they are tried and true components of what you will see when you walk into my first through fifth grade elementary gifted classrooms. This is not to say that every lesson is loved by all my children, but I’d wager and I think my students would agree that 85-90% of the time, they are fully locked into our educational activities. What about that 10-15% of the time? During those activities, we are typically working on fluency or mastering some type of content that the students don’t care for because it’s in a subject they don’t like or we’re launching a new unit and are laying the foundation for a new skill. Gifted students don’t like the unknown so those introductory lessons can be a little tough and tend not to be the most enjoyed by students, but I try to make sure those are short and spread out, so as not to affect students’ overall perception of school and learning.
Now that we’ve talked about why I’m equipped to help you learn how to get students excited about learning and we’ve discussed student engagement and its importance, let’s dive into what you need to do in your classroom to help students get excited about learning.
11 Proven Ways How to Get Students Excited About Learning
Here are the 11 proven ways how to get students excited about learning from my years of trial and error and research:
1. Give your students choice
2.Use educational games and assessment tools
3. Use music
4. Use checklists and rubrics
5. Implement a Flexible Seating learning environment
6. Use Project Based/Inquiry based learning
7. Get to know your students
8. Read to your students and allow them to read independently
9. Put your students in the driver’s seat
10. Use creative assessment measures
11.Change the environment
Now that I have your attention, keep reading below for an explanation on each of these 11 proven methods of how to get students excited about learning. I will also give you examples and resources you can use to implement these suggestions to get students excited about learning in your own classroom now.
First Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Give them Choice
The number one way that you can get students excited about learning is to give them choice. Allow not only students, but if possible parents to help you in developing the ideal virtual or in person classroom. This was the best thing that I did for myself and my students. Have you ever heard of a choice board? How about a tic tac toe board or a playlist? Each is a different method of giving students choice in demonstrating their knowledge of a topic. Students love choice boards, tic tac toe boards and playlists because they are able to have choice in their learning experiences. They are able to operate in their areas of strength and have a say in how they learn and show off that learning. Even better is that once you have a template for each of these ways to get students excited about learning, you can adapt them as needed for different subjects and grade levels. Click the join button above to get freebies of some of my educational tools and resources and to be notified when new ones are shared. Here is a playlist on M.L.K. that I created to get my students excited about learning.
Second Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Use Educational Games
Children love playing games, so it should come as no surprise that they are an amazing way to get students excited about learning. Once upon a time teachers struggled to come up with games students would find fun and spent countless hours laminating, printing and getting these games ready. Now, some extremely intelligent people have done all the hard work for us and have created educational games like Blooket that students love and that with a small amount of tweaking or importing you can have everything you need to have students excited about learning.
Third Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Use Music
Another way that I have been able to get students excited about learning is by using music. Who doesn’t love singing and dancing? You know who loves it more than everyone else? Children. Music is excellent for introducing concepts, learning vocabulary and memorizing facts. I always knew about the power of music, but was reminded as I worked to keep my son engaged when we locked down and then again as I started introducing my first grade students to more challenging concepts. As it turns out, there are several educational companies that just create educational songs to help students. One of my favorites at the moment is Hopscotch. I cannot sing their praises enough. They are useful for multiplication facts, geography concepts and scientific ideas. There are other educational companies who cover social studies and more. Give music a try and watch how effective it is to get students excited about learning.
Fourth Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Checklists and Rubrics
Another of my highly recommended ways to teach you how to get students excited about learning is by using checklists and rubrics. Students are more engaged in learning when they have a clear understanding of what they need to do and how to do it well. Most children are afraid of failing or not doing something right, but if you use rubrics and checklists, which outline expectations in an easily understandable way then students will feel more confident as they approach their learning. That confidence and reduction in fear will help students get more excited about learning.
Fifth Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Flexible Seating Learning Environment
Two years ago, I realized that one of my greatest challenges in how to get students executed about learning was my classroom environment. I had a challenging environment, where I tried to make sure students felt loved and it was decorated in a nautical theme that was bright and inviting, but it was missing something important, flexible seating. If you have never seen or heard of flexible seating check out this post on flexible seating where I give more specifics, but the gist of it is, flexible seating allows kinesthetic and really just children, in general, the ability to move and have choice in their seating. It did wonders for my students’ engagement levels. I also noticed an increase and improvement in their sustained reading and writing times. This is definitely something you should consider if you want to know how to get students excited about learning.
Sixth Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Project Based/Inquiry Based Learning
You must look into project based and inquiry based learning if you want to know how to get students excited about learning. I had already started dabbling in this type of instruction and then my school went through the process to become STEM certified, so I kicked what I was already doing into a different gear. How high? Well, we created a bat habitat on our school campus. How do you complete project based learning? First, you identify problems in your community or even on your school grounds. Then, you brainstorm ways to solve them. After that, you research possible solutions and decide on one that is feasible. Next, you create a plan and then try to execute that plan. While putting your plan into action, you evaluate the success and adapt as needed etc. I cannot explain to you how much this helps increase student engagement. The power that students feel at “doing something” about a problem and the pride that comes with helping to fix something is inexplicable. Let’s just say, you will have students who are extremely excited about learning.
Seventh Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Get to Know Your Students
This should go without saying, but one of the best ways to get students excited about learning is by getting to know them and learning about their interests. In that way, you’ll be able to plan experiences that interest them. One of the ways to do that is by administering interest inventories, learning style surveys or multiple intelligences surveys. These assessments will let you know about how students prefer to learn and will help you to plan an assortment of learning experiences like using writing prompts and using instructional resources and websites that will be well received by your students, thereby helping you to get your students excited about learning.
Eight Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Read to them and Allow them to Read
An oldie but goodie to help get your students get excited about learning is by reading to them. Students, no matter how old, like being read to. Introduce new concepts with read alouds to get students excited about what they will be learning. Read aloud first hand accounts of historical events to help students get a more complete picture of how events unfolded. Have students read to research new concepts and to learn more about topics they need to understand on a deeper level. Also allow students to read more for pleasure because it will increase their engagement level, help them develop their vocabulary and overall literacy skills.
Ninth Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Put them in the Driver’s Seat
As difficult as it is for most teachers, you need to allow students to be in the driver’s seat to help them become more excited about learning. What exactly does it mean to “put students in the driver’s seat?” Exactly what I said. Ask them how they best learn information, ask them about their strengths and weaknesses, let them choose how to acquire information and show mastery. If your main goal is to teach, does it matter how? If your students will learn better and retain more information by using methods that they enjoy, then within reason, let them. Now, I know in most of our cases, they will have to show mastery on benchmarks and standardized tests, so yes, you will still need to prepare them for those types of activities. However, for the majority of your instructional time and learning experiences, get your students excited about learning by putting them in the driver’s seat.
Tenth Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Use Creative Assessment Measures
Who says students can get excited about their learning, even when they’re taking an assessment? Who says assessments have to be paper and pencil? Why can’t you assess students’ understanding of the Battle of Alamo with a debate? Why can’t you check their comprehension level of the impact of Jackie Robinson by having them create a baseball card about him? I can guarantee you students would prefer the options I’ve suggested over a pencil and paper assessment. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, do add practice on the types of assessments used in your district to determine mastery, but for your purposes and for the students' engagement levels, mix those assessments in with ones that consider their learning styles and multiple intelligences. It will ensure that your students are excited about learning.
Eleventh Proven Way How to Get Students Excited About Learning: Change the Environment
Last, but not least. Here’s the eleventh proven way to get students excited about learning. When you are wondering how to get students excited about learning, you should definitely consider your environment. It is boring to be in the same place day after day week after week. Where possible, take your classroom outdoors. Teach students about endangered species by going on a virtual or an in person field trip. There are many apps and experiences that allow students to become “immersed” into the concept or topic they are studying. I can guarantee they would rather those options to simply reading about the topic or looking at pictures. Better yet, do all of the above to accommodate different types of learners. Doing so will be a guaranteed way to get students excited about learning.
As I mentioned earlier, unlocking some of these secrets on how to get students excited about learning has taken years. I have had to build checklists, rubrics and project based units that I update yearly based on the new students in my room, but it is all worth it because engaged students learn better and learn more. Do not try to implement all of these suggestions at once because you will feel overwhelmed. Bite them up in manageable parts before chewing and swallowing. The reward will be worth it as you start to see students excited about learning and start to recognize noticeable gains in their mastery of content and subject matter.
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