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How to Get Students Engaged

Not sure your students will get engaged? Concerned there’s not enough content to fill your year-long class?  There are simple solutions, such as allowing time for:

These strategies are much more than “time-fillers;” they are gateways to building greater levels of student engagement and achievement.


Get Students in the Green Zone

“Green means go!” We want nothing to get in our students’ way of learning.

But, our students are usually preoccupied with other thoughts when they enter our classroom. So, we have to help them transition into the “Green Zone” of happy, comfortable learning.

To help them make this transition, spend the first few minutes of each class on an “engaging yet neutral,” activity. Share a short story, a puzzle, a bad joke, etc… something fun and engaging that helps pulls everyone’s attention to you and get settled in class.

For example, you might try:

  • “Mad Libs” Mondays
  • “Two-Minute Mystery”Tuesdays
  • “Would You Rather” Wednesdays
  • “Puzzle” Thursdays
  • “Bad Joke” Fridays

My husband used this strategy during his tenure as a high school teacher in the community where we live. We often run into his former students when we are out around town. For years now, I’ve witnessed dozens and dozens of students greet him with a warm smile and comment about how much they loved these silly activities. (“Bad Joke Friday” is the one they remember best!)

This small investment of time at the front end of class pays big dividends down the road. It helps students get focused. It helps remove the “friction of learning” caused by distractions outside of class. And, as many of my husband’s “former students” have commented, these fun/silly activities let them know how much he cared about them. That, alone, is a worthwhile investment.

To see my husband share his story, and to get more ideas on how to get students in the “green zone,” see his video/article here.


Humans are social creatures! Group discussions are an important tool to help students internalize and deepen their learning of these critical skills.

Humans are social creatures! Group discussions are an important tool to help students internalize and deepen their learning of these critical skills.

Group Discussions

Put “positive peer pressure” to work for you with group discussions.  Open the floor for students to share their success stories and their challenges.  Group discussions are very powerful for connecting with the students who’ve been sitting on the sidelines, not sure if they can trust what you’ve been teaching. After all, they’ve been burned before! When they start hearing feedback from their peers, many will slowly begin to warm up.  See our tips for allowing group discussions to be honest, yet keeping them constructively positive, here.


Guided & Independent Practice

Yes, that’s right… students should do their homework in this class! As with all subjects, students need to apply the strategies they learn through your study skills course in order to internalize them; what better way to do that than to apply them to their homework from other classes?

During guided practice, the teacher moves around the room, coaching students as needed, monitoring progress, and making note of the students’ proficiency in using the SOAR Study Skills strategies.

Providing the students with independent practice time is also critical, and also gives you the perfect opportunity to conduct your 1-on-1 meetings.


1-1 Meetings

The process of learning study skills can be dramatically enriched by your personal encouragement, so we highly encourage 1-1 meetings. These meetings can be extremely brief; just 5-10 minutes, 1 or 2 times per month/student make a huge difference!  Of course, some students will need more time, so account for individual needs. Use this time to be an encouraging “cheerleader” and “remover of roadblocks,” not a “nag.”

We put all of the work into our “done-for-you” Teacher’s Guide so that you can have energy to be fully present with your students and not feel pressured to squeeze lesson planning into your class time.

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