Hello fellow Educents lovers! I’m Jessica, the author-creator behind Joy in the Journey. I believe that learning is such an adventurous journey and I am dedicated to creating fun and engaging products that will simplify your lesson planning and enrich your teaching!
In my 5th grade classroom, I have found that the number one cause of disruption in my classroom isn’t “bad” or “misbehaving” students – it’s students who aren’t engaged. Involving the students in the learning will increase class participation and will motivate students, deepening their comprehension and retention.
This is a common quote, but it’s used often for a reason – it speaks the truth. Students often need to feel involved in the learning of new material in order for them to retain knowledge and deepen their understanding of the concept.
You may be thinking, “I agree – but HOW do I engage my students?”
True, engaging students is easier said than done.
That’s why I have come up with 10 easy ideas to implement in your home or classroom that will make learning more ENGAGING and INTERACTIVE:
- Interactive Notebooks/Foldables
You’ve probably heard the buzz: Interactive Notebooks are taking the education world by storm. And for good reason: they are engaging, interactive, and a fun way to teach and review concepts. Interactive note-taking is basically what it sounds like: the students take notes on important vocabulary or concepts by writing on top of or beneath flaps that they have glued down in their journals.
Here are some examples from my classroom:
I started out small: Last fall we used Interactive Notebooks in reading to discuss different story elements. In the Spring, I added in grammar journals to review the parts of speech. This year, I have also gotten a lot of value and important discussion started by incorporating Interactive Notebooks into our Bible curriculum (Bible Basics and Easter Foldables). I don’t do separate journals for science and history – we normally complete those by unit and just glue the foldables on a piece of construction paper or in a manila file folder.
I pass out the templates, the students cut them out and glue them into their journal. Then, during the lesson, we discuss the new or review information. Sometimes the answers will vary student to student, sometimes I have them work in pairs to write the definitions to important vocabulary words, and other times I dictate to the whole class what I want them to write. In the last case, I usually project the answer key on the board:
My favorite part about the Interactive Notebooks is that it creates a built-in study tool that students can take home before a test without cramming or scrambling to fill out a lengthy study guide. They have done the work, have the information written down, and now just need to review it. For example, my students completed foldables for our Matter unit in science on a piece of construction paper (front and back). Then, a couple of nights before the test, they took home their foldables and “taught” their parents. No cramming, stressing, or late nights spent filling out a study guide. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!
Now, as a time-crunched teacher, you might be wondering when you’re going to fit in what seems to be such a time-consuming activity. At first, it does take time for your students to get the hang of it, but once they do, it becomes a valuable tool without taking up too much class time.
- File Folder Games
File Folder Games are exactly what they sound like: games that are housed or glued into a file folder. File Folder games are readily available online (many for free), at education stores (Educents has them!), and even at the Dollar Store.
I use these in my classroom for early-finishers, for reinforcement of difficult concepts, and for a quick grab-and-go activities when I have a parent or tutor show up to help a student.
- Fly Swatters
Fly swatters play a very important role in my classroom. Looking for a fun way to review math facts or important vocabulary? Instead of assigning another workbook page, write the answers to questions on the board, call a student up, and ask them the question. They can “slap” the answer with a fly swatter. To make it more exciting, pull two students up and make it a competition!
SCOOT is a game that can be used across the subject areas as a review or informal assessment. The game uses flash cards or task cards – but instead of the cards rotating from student to student, the cards stay fixed and the students move around the room. It gets them up, moving, and engaged in what they’re learning.
Here’s how to play:
Place each card on a separate desk around the classroom. Give each student a tracking sheet. Have each student stand at a desk. Start the timer (I usually set it for 10 seconds or so) and have each student solve the problem at the desk they are standing at. When the time is up, call “SCOOT!” and have the students move to the next desk and solve that card. When the students have moved to all of the desks, have them check their answers against the answer key.
I have also done this when I want the students to look at their classmates’ projects. I set up the projects on desks around the room and have the students quietly rotate through the desks – saying “SCOOT” every 2-3 minutes
5. Shaving Cream
This year, shaving cream has become a staple in my classroom. Yes, real shaving cream. As in the fluffy stuff that men use to shave their faces with.
I first used it in a science lesson on clouds, but once my students loved playing with it so much, I decided to incorporate it into other subjects as well. I have the students clear off their desks completely and then squirt a small portion of shaving cream (just a little bigger than my fist) onto their desk tops. We then review spelling words or math facts using our fingers. At the end, we clean off the shaving cream and are left with sparkling clean desks and a good-smelling classroom! Plus the kids had way more fun than filling in a worksheet – another win-win-win!
6. I Have…Who Has?
I Have…Who Has? Is a fun game that requires content knowledge and expert listening skills. Here’s how it works: each student gets 1 card that has an answer on top and a question on the bottom. The students are listening for the question that they have the answer to and then pose a question to another classmate.
Here’s a visual to help explain:
The game is played until all of the cards are read.
I usually use this as a test review. I take questions similar to those that will be on the test and use it as a refresher a day or two before the test. This gives the students an idea of what to study and also helps me to see if I need to review any specific vocabulary words or concepts.
I have created several “I Have…Who Has?” games to go with many topics.
I have also created an EDITABLE file that you can use to customize for virtually any topic or subject. You can purchase it from my Educents storefront for only $5 and use it again and again.
Phew! Thanks for sticking with me – I hope you gleaned some good, practical, and easy-to-implement ideas from this post. Engaging students isn’t inherently hard, but it does take some planning and organization. Hopefully you can use a few (or all six!) of these ideas to create a classroom atmosphere that is fun, engaging, and interactive!
Jessica Lawler is a wife, passionate fifth grade teacher, new mom, blogger on Joy in the Journey, reader, cook, baker, crafter, and scrapbook enthusiast