Helping Students Actively Engage With Content

Students can sit in a classroom that offers a clear focus, receive masterfully delivered direct instruction, and still not achieve.  Why?  Students need to actively engage with content in order to fully understand and apply it to a variety of situations.  Only then can it be said that they truly learned something.

How can teachers help students actively engage with content?  Researchers Robert Marzano and John Hattie have studied active engagement and provide some thoughts (Source:

  1. Link new content to prior knowledge.  Employ additive language when constructing new knowledge.  Employ compare-contrast activities to help bridge the new-old knowledge gap. 
  2. Note-taking.  Teach students to take meaningful notes regarding content.  There are a number of methods for note-taking.  Present many options for students and have them choose the one that makes the most sense to them.  
  3. Ask recall questions.  Throughout the lesson, ask students to recall what was stated or demonstrated.  Students who know they could be put on the spot tend to pay attention and engage with content more. 
  4. Graphic organizers.  Teach students to create meaningful visual displays of content.  Again, there are many types of graphic organizers.  Teach several and let your students choose the one that makes the most sense to them. 
  5. Create analogies.  Analogies are great ways to link new content to that which is already known.  Students often enjoy the creative nature of these types of tasks and learn at the same time.  

These are just a few of the many possible ways to engage students in the content you are teaching.  As you prepare for next week, think of ways you can add more active engagement into your classrooms.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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