11 Creative Ways to Increase Student Engagement

Sometimes you just need something new to increase student engagement in your classroom.

Bring back the magic & excite your students with these different strategies & ideas! 

This image shows students engaged and raising their hands in the classroom.

Add Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies

Kagan cooperative learning strategies are awesome ways to increase student engagement and they work in ANY lesson! 

Here are a few of my favorite strategies.

1. Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up 

This is an easy way to get students up, moving, and sharing their ideas with classmates before, during, and after lessons! 

To use this strategy, pose a question to your students. It can be any type of question connected to your lesson, or a great ice-breaker question. 

Then, have students stand up. 

Once everyone is standing, each student will put his/her hand in the air. Let students know that when your hand is raised, that means they are looking for a partner. 

Then, when you say the words, “Pair Up”, students will walk around and find another student who also has his/her hand raised. They will be partners. Each student will take a turn answering the question, and thank each other for being partners. 

Finally, students will raise their hands again to show they are looking for a new partner. 

Keep going for as long as you would like the discussions to go for! You can always debrief as a whole class after this activity. 

Here is a short video to see Stand up Hand up Pair up in action!

2. 🌟Think-Pair-Share 

Always a classic to allow think-time for your students and increase the number of students who are responding to questions during a lesson. 

This strategy can work in any subject area and with any lesson! Here’s how to use it: 

1️⃣ First, pose a question to the class, but let them know that you won’t be calling on anyone, so they don’t need to raise their hands. 

2️⃣ Once students have heard and understand the question, give them time to think. 

3️⃣ After a minute or so, have students turn to the person next to them and share what they think the answer is. 

4️⃣ Finally, come back together as a whole class and ask for a volunteer or two to share out their answer with the whole class! 

This allows more students to participate in the questions you pose and doesn’t favor students who can think of answers super fast. 

3. Quiz-Quiz-Trade 

⭐ You will need some notecards with questions on one side and answers on the other for this strategy. But, you could have your students write their own question & find the answer as the first step!

Once you have notecards ready to go, pass one out to each of your students. Then, tell students they will stand up, move around the classroom & find another student to quiz.

Once students have found a partner, they will take turns quizzing each other using the notecards in their hands. One student will start by asking the question written on his/her card to the other student. After that student answers, they will switch roles. 

After both students have asked & answered a question, they will trade cards and thank each other for being partners. Then, they will find another student and repeat the steps with their new card! 

✨This is a great strategy to mix up your review days or to see what students know about a topic before you begin a new unit! 

Curious to learn more about these different strategies? Read more about Kagan Learning Structures at their website! 

4. Brain Breaks 🧠 

Sometimes, all students need is a chance to stretch their legs & take a short break! 

Incorporate brain breaks into your daily schedule to provide students with that chance to move, think about something else, and recharge! 

Brain breaks could be as simple as dancing along to a song together from GoNoodle, or could be connected to the lesson itself. 

✨ Play a round of 4 corners to quiz students on concepts they just learned or allow students to share their own opinions about the topic. 

✨ Present an issue to your students based on your lesson and have them move to either side of the room and have a “mini-debate”. 

✨ Practice the meaning of different adverbs to describe how students need to move around the classroom. 

➡️ Keep things simple, quick, and light-hearted to help your students take a break, work out a different part of their brain, and get moving! 

Below is a fun 3 minute Go-noodle dance for elementary students to get up and moving as a brain break activity!

Also, bonus tip– if you use any Youtube videos in your classroom, type _popup after watch in the URL to get rid of any ads while playing the video!

5. Play a Review Game 🎮

Make review time even more fun by simply turning it into a game! 

There are SO many different websites/apps/programs that can keep this low-prep for you and lots of fun for your students! 

➡️ Kahoot 

Choose from games already created, turn your flashcards into a game, or create your own! Students LOVE this multi-choice game format. 

➡️ Blooket 

Like Kahoot….but even better! 

➡️ Jeopardy 

Browse this website for a list of games already created! Simply type in “place value”, “money and time” or any other math concept you have already taught. 

This image shows a place value review jeopardy game for 4th grade students.

Quizlet– Find a quizlet set to review what you are learning (in math, science, language, there are so many topics to choose from!) and turn it into a review game with a relay race!

Mis Clases Locas shares how to turn a quizlet live into a fun and collaborative game in this blog post- Quizlet Live Relay Race.

6. Head Outside ⛰️ ☀️

Grab books, notebooks, and pencils (or whatever materials you need) and head outside! Allow the fresh air and change of scenery to increase student engagement for you.

I always loved doing my science lessons outside- and students loved it too! Plus, it was less of a mess to clean up outside rather than in my classroom 🙌

The image below is a science investigation I did outdoors with my students on erosion! 

This image shows 4 students holding notebooks and doing a science experiment outdoors with a pan of sand and water.

I would suggest keeping an eye on the weather before you head out. I have experienced watching students desperately clutching their notebooks or books to keep them from blowing away before. Unsurprisingly, that lesson was not as enjoyable as I was hoping it would be. 😂

7. Add Visuals to Slides 🖼️

Do you use slides throughout the course of your school day? 

✨ Learning targets 

✨ Morning Work 

✨ Main ideas/points 

✨ Lesson slides 

Add a meme or some visuals that relate to what you are teaching! This will really help your slides pop and increase student engagement. 

This image shows a good morning slide template for teachers with a meme on it to increase student engagement.

This slide template is included in my calm colors Google and Powerpoint Slides templates.

Check out this blog post filled with more ideas on how to use Google Slides (or PowerPoint) to boost student engagement! 

8. Customize Word Problems 📊

Instead of reading about Suzy and Bob collecting toys and oranges, add your own students’ names into the mix! 

Watch as students get excited and possibly even a little embarrassed as they read their own names during the math lesson. 

💫 Looking to add a little more flair? Change the word problems to represent something your students would actually do- like play video games or collect squishmallows! 

9. Walking Classroom 🚶

A walking classroom may sound strange, but it is an awesome option to change things up & increase student engagement for your reading or social studies lessons. 

To do a walking classroom all you need is something for your students to listen to, devices to listen on, and a location to walk around. 

This works great if you are reading a book as a class and there is an audiobook available, or you are able to record yourself reading the passage for that day’s lesson. 

1️⃣ First, record the audio or find the audio recording. 

2️⃣ Next, load the recording onto your students’ devices. 

3️⃣ Then, grab headphones & head outside. 

4️⃣ As you walk around (the playground, the track, the field), listen to the audio recording of the book or passage for your reading/social studies lesson that day. 

5️⃣ Finally, come back together as a class (inside or outside) and discuss the major points, what stood out, or what students learned. 

10. Sketchnote During Lessons ✏️

Switch up the way your students take notes during your lessons! 

Sketchnoting is a way to capture the main ideas from lessons/books/videos/etc. However, it is different from traditional notetaking because it incorporates sketches as well as words. 

The sketches shouldn’t be masterpieces and take 40 minutes each to complete. They should be quick, rough, drawings that help you remember key points from a lesson. 

It’s an awesome tool to introduce to your students for several reasons: 

➡️ It provides an artistic outlet for students 

➡️ The focus isn’t on the art, but on the ideas you are remembering, so anyone can participate, regardless of artistic ability 

➡️ There are opportunities to talk about what ideas are really important and which ones stood out to your individual students 

Teach a short mini-lesson on what sketchnoting is, what it isn’t, and the basics of how to sketchnote. 

Then, give your students a pencil, some paper and watch them take note in their own way of what sticks out as important to them over the course of your lesson! 

11. Use Classroom Escape Rooms 🔍

Students LOVE solving mysteries! 

Combine their love of mysteries with reviewing content before the end of units for a perfect blend of practicality and fun. ⭐️ 

Escape rooms can feel intimidating because they are large projects and take a lot of work, which is true. However, you can use digital escape rooms to lower the amount of prep but still have a high student engagement level! 

Above are a few of the digital escape rooms in my TPT shop. In these math review escape rooms, students solve problems using a Google form and can only move forward as they answer questions correctly. They also find and solve three hidden printable codes around the classroom. It takes a little prep, but definitely gets students excited about math concepts!

If you are looking for more math digital escape rooms for 2nd- 5th grade, I have each of those in my TPT shop here!

Keeping your lessons fun and engaging is one of the hardest things to do as a teacher. 

Hopefully, this blog post sparked some ideas of things you can start doing with your students tomorrow! 😀

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