How Engaging Students in the Classroom Creates Lifelong Learners
Teachers across the country understand the value of helping a child learn to love to read.
These educators know that reading opens doors for each student’s future, especially when it comes to job opportunities and options in higher education. But how can you help a child learn to love to read if they’re not interested in what they're reading?
And how do you get readers to not just decode words, but comprehend and retain the information and narratives they encounter?
The secret, according to teacher, author, and motivational speaker Danny Brassell, is in creating engaging learning experiences for students.
Brassell, who has a PhD and is an author and public speaker, began his career as a teacher. He spoke with teachers, curriculum specialists, and other educators at a recent Utah K–3 Literacy Forum hosted by Imagine Learning, a leading educational technology company located in Provo, Utah.
He argues that it’s a teacher’s job to bring joy into the classroom and get children interested in the material they’re reading in order to “make the information stick.”
“Teachers know that every child is different and therefore the way each child becomes engaged and motivated to learn is unique,” expressed Brassell. He suggests educators look at each child’s interests and strengths to adapt learning experiences to what captures their attention. “If you have an actor, let them act out scenes from a book they’re reading,” he shared.
“If you have a writer, let them write an alternative ending to their book. If you have an artist, let them draw a cover to a book. Find what interests your students have and cater learning to them.”
Research backs Brassell’s claims. According to the National Library, “research shows that reading engagement is a key element in a student's success.”
The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) reports on multiple studies that claim that “better student engagement improves student learning.”
How do teachers engage young learners to read?
Studies show that “active learning,” such as hands-on activities or impromptu writing assignments, help children of all ages and backgrounds engage and retain information they encounter through reading.
Brassell shared a variety of classroom activities that teachers can use to get children interested in what they’re reading. These ideas included playing poetic musical chairs where students move around the classroom reading poems taped to each chair.
Or having a “book fairy” put a special book with a personalized note on each child’s desk once a week. Other ideas were to have mystery readers regularly visit the class or to involve students in detective “research” on topics they read about in class.
All teachers understand that a major challenge is an inability to control the home environment of their students. But educators do have the ability to create engaging, supportive classroom experiences. “The higher the interest I can create in the class,” Brassell shared, “the better the comprehension a student will have. And comprehension is the heart of learning.”
One take-away from Brassell and the current research is clear: engaged students are students who learn. And if the goal of education is to create lifelong learners, a teacher who creates an engaging classroom environment is a valuable commodity indeed.