MCCESC Teaching & Learning

February: Active Student Engagement

Those long winter months

Guthrie & Anderson (1999) describe active engagement as "the joint functioning of motivation, conceptual knowledge, cognitivie strategies, and social interactions." The following are factors that impact student motivation at school:

  • Challenge level
  • Quality and timing of feedback
  • Support for learning made available
  • Interest in tasks
  • Presentation of learning

The video below provides 7 strategies to increase student engagement, but each section below will provide some age-specific techniques to use within your classroom.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us:

7 Ways to Increase Student Engagement in the Classroom

Active Engagement Tips

According to the Mississippi Department of Education (2018), the following 8 suggestions will assist in the implementation of active engagement in your classroom:

  • Have a classroom management policy already set in place.
  • Teach social skills and expectations before working in groups.
  • Teach procedures for everything - no matter the grade level.
  • Choose a firm "quiet signal" and use it.
  • Provide time for students to work out answers to questions before calling on them.
  • Give students enough think time.
  • When you ask a student to explain or show the rest of the class, have students respond directly to that student.
  • Group students in pairs to begin.

Active Engagement in the Primary Grades

Brain Drain: after providing students opportunities to learn about a topic, such as through a think-mix-pair-share, have them return to their seats and "drain their brains" - simply writing down all the facts they could recall from the process.

Find the Question: a mix between a scavenger hunt and Jeopardy.

1. Create a list of ___ questions.

2. On ___ different pieces of paper, put an answer on top with a number and a question with a letter on the bottom.

3. Have students number their papers 1 - ___. This will be their recording sheet.

4. Hang the pages up through the classroom.

5. Students will go to a page, read the answer, and then search the room for the question that matches that answer.

6. They will continue until they have found all ___ questions.

7. Due to how it was structured, the teacher can easily "grade".

Stand Up/Sit Down: after discussing a topic, provide two options - an example and non-example. If it is an example, they stand; a non-example, they sit.

Category Clap: With students standing in a circle, have students list objects within a category with a clapping rhythym. Think - odd numbers, even numbers, prime numbers, nouns, verbs, colors, etc.

Desk Switch: Put an assignment on the board and have students complete the first problem. They will then move to the next desk to check that student's work. They will complete the second problem, then check the answer at the next desk. This continues until all problems are complete. **OBVIOUSLY, THIS DOES NOT WORK CURRENTLY DUE TO COVID**

Active Engagement in the Middle Level Grades

Start Lessons with Introductory Hooks- Engage students from the outset of your lesson with a hook. A hook can be anything that piques interest, establishes relevance, or inspires curiosity in the subject of lesson. Try a personal anecdote, a brain teaser or challenge question, a historical example or a multimedia source. Try increasing student engagement by visiting ClassHook. Class Hook is a great place to find educational videos from TV shows and movies. ClassHook has free and premium versions.

Three-Step Interview- Make groups of three after a lesson. During a 5 to 10-minute interview, the interviewee will quiz their classmate on the lesson they just learned, while the notetaker records the conversation.

Big picture
Give One-Get One

  1. Teacher instructs students to draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper
  2. Teacher poses a question or problem
  3. Student writes 3-5 ideas in the left column
  4. Teacher calls time and instructs the student to rotate to other students and exchange ideas
  5. Each student writes any new ideas gained from partner in the right column
  6. Teacher debriefs ideas with students.

12 Word Summary - In 12 words or less, students will summarize the most important aspects from the day's lesson. Have students share their summary with a partner.

5-3-1- In this strategy, the teacher poses a question or topic. Students brainstorm 5 answers. Then they work in a pair to come up with the best 3. Then the pair joins with another pair to come up with the 1 most important.

Pass it- After about 10-minutes into a lesson, have students write down a question or a fact they learned on an index card. Have students pass the cards around so they are "shuffled" in the room. Randomly choose a student to share what is on the index card in front of them. Facilitate an answer to the question or have students offer more information about the fact.

Active Engagement in the Secondary Grades

Save the Last Word for Me: this strategy requires students to be both active listeners and speakers. Students work in triads, following a pattern of sharing and discussing their responses to read text. On three separate notecards, they will write a quote from the text on the front, with an explanation for why they chose that quote on the back. A remote version can be found here.

Think, Ink, Pair, Share: While Think-Pair-Share is not a new idea, adding in the "ink" gives students time to write and prepare what they will share. This additional step provides students who are less likely to express their ideas an opportunity to craft their responses.

Walk and Talk: A more physically-engaging approach to Think-Ink-Pair-Share that requires students to go for a walk during their sharing. Set a time limit, and then have students switch partners after a certain time. The older and more trustworthy the students, the further they can walk (perhaps in the halls or around the school).

Triangle-Square-Circle: This strategy is for the end of class where students reflect using the shapes. A triangle includes 3 points from the lesson. A square prompts them to include anything that "squares up" to their thinking, or something they agreed with. And the circle asks them to decide on something still "circling" in their brains. A video of it being used in the secondary classroom can be viewed here.


While we are not self-care experts, we can help you with instruction. Please reach out to us if you find yourself needing instructional or curricular help during these complicated times. We know that you have been inundated with resources, so we have worked to organize those for you. We are here to help.


We have linked upcoming webinars and online workshops that are being offered to educators at no cost.

Madison-Champaign ESC

We Work to Serve!

Department of Teaching & Learning

Check out our Instagram: @tandlmccesc

Feel free to use our hashtags:

#MCCESCTeachingandLearning #M_C_ESC

Big picture