Currently Browsing

Posts Tagged ‘ student engagement ’

How to Engage Young Learners (Toddler and Preschool)

Sometimes engaging toddlers and preschoolers might seem as complicated as herding cats. Not only do they have tons of energy, but they’re also very opinionated. How do you engage a child whose favorite word is “no” and favorite question is “why?” Believe it or not, it can be done. The key is to use their energy and opinionated nature to your advantage. Whether you’re working with one child or a group of children, we’ve discovered some ways to help harness the energy of young learners and maximize their ability to learn.

1. Keep it short

The average attention span for a two-year-old is 3-6 minutes. For three and four-year-olds, it’s around 8-10 minutes. Because young children can’t focus for very long, it’s important to make the most of the time you have. As a general rule, plan to switch activities every 10-15 minutes. If you need to complete a longer activity, break it up into smaller steps and take breaks in between the steps to keep children focused. Keep in mind that children’s attention spans vary from activity to activity too. For some activities, a few minutes may be all they can handle, while others will hold their attention for half an hour. Be flexible in your planning to allow for changing attention spans.

One way to keep young children’s attention is to show them a short video. Most of Help Teaching’s videos for young learners, such as this Naming Shapes video, are 1-3 minutes in length to make it easy for kids to focus.  Browse all of our videos and self-paced lessons for all ages here.

2. Make it hands-on

Young children love to get their hands on everything. Touch is one of the ways they experience the world. They’re also still developing their motor skills and using their hands can help them build key skills. When working with young children, given them plenty of opportunities to complete hands-on activities, be it molding shapes out of clay, feeling plastic letters, or even moving a clothespin to the correct answer on a clip card.

3. Get moving

The parts of the body are all connected. As children spin in circles, jump up and down, and move their bodies in other ways, they’re making important connections in their brain. Sometimes children need to move their bodies to help them process information. By incorporating movement into learning activities, you help children focus and experience the lesson on multiple levels.  Click here for ideas to motivate your students to bust a move!

4. Repeat it

Have you ever noticed that young children love to watch the same shows and sing the same songs over and over again? While this may drive you nuts, it’s actually an important part of their development. Not only does repeating information help children learn, it helps them build confidence in their knowledge and feel like they have mastered something. Repeat patterns, sound, expressions, and bits of information to help children gain the confidence they need to learn new things.  For example, repeating letter sounds is key to phonics education.  Here are some of Help Teaching’s preschool-specific video resources you can use.

5. Involve rhythm

Adding rhythm to an activity is another way to help young children take in information on multiple levels and make crucial connections in their brain. After all, the ability to connect rhythm to sound and movement is a cognitive skill. Just patting your hands in a rhythm while you recite the alphabet or explain an important concept can be enough to help children remember it.  You may find this teacher’s video helpful in understanding the difference between rhythm and beat.  And here are one teacher’s tips on teaching music to preschoolers.

6. Offer guidance

Young children are just beginning to gain confidence. As an adult, you want them to learn and explore on their own, but many children need to know that you’re there to help them. You can offer guidance by asking leading questions, giving them subtle hints, or starting the activity with them and then letting them finish it on their own.

For example, in this How Many video, children are shown how to count, and then given the opportunity to try on their own.

7. Include their interests

Sometimes young children are so focused on a television show or one type of animal that it’s hard to get them interested in anything else. When it comes to getting children involved in other activities, use what they love to your advantage. Count dinosaurs, practice colors with princess dresses, or role play a popular fairy tale using their favorite stuffed animals. Think of creative ways to bring children’s interests into activities to help get them interested in something new.

For example, if you want to teach children new words, try themed vocabulary lists, such as these construction words and princess words videos.

8. Give them a task to do

Children love to feel important. Giving children a task to do helps them feel like they have an important role to play and encourages them to take ownership of their learning. You can do this by turning an activity into a game, giving kids a puzzle to solve, or creating a process that children have to work through.

For example, turn a question into a riddle for kids to solve or make a bingo board with activities for them to complete.

9. Offer a choice

Another thing children love is choices. Even the most headstrong children are often likely to comply when given choices. Design learning activities so that children can make choices. The choices may be as simple as what color of crayon to use or you may offer a choice of completely different activities that all cover the same skill.

10. Tell a story

Sometimes children have a difficult time remembering individual facts or bits of information. However, if you put that information into a story, children will often hear the message loud and clear. You can tell stories about specific bits of information, such as the letters of the alphabet or the names of shapes, or you can tell a story to illustrate character-centered skills, such as saying please or learning the difference between tattling and telling. Plenty of authors have written books designed to do just this, but you can also make up a story of your own or print out a simple mini book to help get the message across.

11. Use color

Color makes learning exciting. Fill learning activities with brightly colored pictures, words and objects. Give children coloring pages related to basic concepts, letters, or numbers, and allow them to fill them with colors of their own.

12. Follow a routine

Young children thrive on routine. Every day, they’re taking in new information and learning all about the world around them. With all of this new information coming in, it can cause them to feel like they’re losing control. Routines help children feel like they have some control. They know what to expect so they’re more willing to focus on new information when it comes in.

13. Offer positive reinforcement

Some toddlers and preschoolers may seem like they have big egos, but in reality, most young children are slowly building confidence in themselves and their abilities. By offering positive reinforcement, you help young children build confidence in themselves and their abilities. This makes them more willing to learn new things. Positive reinforcement is not the same as praising children for everything they do. Instead, it involves specific positive phrases, such as “You can do it” or “I like the way you cut out the circle with the scissors.”  Teachers and parents will find a comprehensive guide to this subject here.

14. Be enthusiastic

Have you ever noticed how young children tend to feed of the enthusiasm of others? If you’re excited about something, toddlers and preschoolers will be too. So even if you’re not all that excited about counting to 10 or singing the alphabet song, paste a smile on your face and pretend like it’s your favorite thing in the world. The more enthusiastic you are, the more likely children will buy in to what you’re selling.

15. Let them rest

Growing is hard work. While it’s tempting to pack children’s days full of highly engaging activities, they also need time to rest. The average toddler needs 12-14 hours of sleep each day and the average preschooler needs 10-12 hours of sleep a day. While you might not be successful at putting them down for a nap in the middle of the day, you can enjoy some quiet rest time throughout the day. Play some soft music or listen to a story. This will allow children to recharge and be ready to learn even more when rest time is over.

What are some of your favorite strategies for engaging love learners? Share them with us in the comments. Also don’t forget to check out Help Teacher’s Early Education page full of printables, coloring pages, and other resources to use with toddlers and preschoolers.

5 Ways to Keep Students Energized at the End of the Year

5 Ways to Keep Students Energized at the End of the Year
As another school year winds down, many teachers are faced with the same question: how do I maintain the energy level of my students as summer approaches? Keeping kids busy, interested, and involved is always a difficult task, but it becomes even more important as the view outside gets brighter. Try some of the five suggestions below to keep your students active, focused, and learning even as the sun shines outside of your classroom window.

#1 Get on your feet!

One activity that always gets the blood flowing is asking kids to move around the room to different learning stations. Each station contains a different task related to a conceptual or thematic assignment. After collecting data from each station, students craft a thoughtful answer using the evidence from each station. The kids get to move around for an extended period of time, allowing them feel more in control of the pace of their learning, while still reinforcing the skills of critical thinking. It also allows them to works in small groups in a more informal setting than the typical group activity.

#2 Today’s guest is…

A guest speaker can motivate students in ways that their everyday teacher cannot. Bringing in a dynamic expert in a field or subject that relates to your curriculum will enhance their content knowledge and also let them hear a different voice than yours for the first time in eight months.

Another method of bringing experts into your class is to use distance learning with programs such as Skype and Google +. Skype in the Classroom lists institutions that offer speakers and lesson plans that can be scheduled in advance, such as the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Work with your guest to create a complete learning experience that will allow you to prep your students for their topic and also debrief after the speaker leaves.

#3 Now Playing!

There is a plethora of easy to use technology that allows students to create videos, newscasts, and reenactments. A flip camera, tablet, or even student cell phones can also record video to be uploaded to a third party website, such as WeVideo, for editing and professional touches. Using video to replace a traditional project or formative assessment allows the students to express their knowledge in ways that multiple choice questions do not allow.

#4 Collaborate!

Bulletin boards contain up-to-date assignments and student work, but they can also can serve as marker where you’re at in your curriculum. Have your students create artistic representations of recent content to be put on display. Give parameters as to what they can create, such as posters, charts, cartoons and the like, and give them the time and freedom to generate something that represents what they have learned. Allowing students to choose the direction of a public display motivates and energizes them to take ownership and pride over their learning.

#5 Hit the road!

Unfortunately, many districts no longer have the funds available for large scale field trips, but that doesn’t mean that you are chained to your classroom. There are likely many attractions, exhibits, and activities close by  Local history is an oft overlooked aspect of education. Look into the history of your town or city, and embrace it as a learning experience. Local non-profits can also help you to organize community service outings that would serve as character education and go well beyond the curriculum. Many excursions like these would only incur fees from your district’s bus company and go a long way towards keeping your students interested and making them a more well rounded student.6

#6 Spice things up!

Spice up a traditional story by adding movement. Have students make up motions to go along with a story. Let them rap a poem. Or bring in text that incorporates movement, such as a movement story. Even just having students stand up when answering a question or making them recite what they’ve learned while walking around the room can give them a much needed energy boost.

It’s impossible to push your students full throttle every day, but knowing when to push their buttons and create some enthusiasm for learning is important as the year winds down. Use the ideas above to reinvigorate their love of learning. And to get students moving in between learning activities, try incorporating some fun brain breaks into the class period.