By: Alexis Gomez

Keeping students engaged and facilitating a positive classroom environment is of utmost importance for many teachers. Implementing fun and helpful strategies in your lesson plans can make all the difference in increasing student engagement and overall morale.

Edutopia’s 60-Second Strategies include activities implemented by teachers of various grade levels from around the world. Here’s some of our favorites—we think you’ll love them too.

K-2nd Grade

  • Pom-Pom Jar: The Pom-pom jar is a positive reinforcement technique that encourages and celebrates kindness in the classroom. First, start with an empty jar, then give your students examples of different acts of kindness. Examples might include saying nice words to someone, passing out papers, or sharing school supplies. When students help another classmate out, they get to put a pom-pom in the designated jar. Each time a student puts a pom-pom in the jar, the class says aloud what that student did as a form of recognition. When the jar gets full, students get a classroom party or any other fun and special perk!

3-5th Grade

  • Participation Cards: Participation Cards: Participation Cards encourage every student to contribute and demonstrate engagement in class. Using a set of index cards, label each one with a different response: “I agree,” “I disagree,” or “I don’t know how to respond.” During class discussion, students can raise their cards in response to another classmate’s point. Participation cards can help with assessing students’ understandings, but also give students a voice. For shy students, raising their card helps them demonstrate their viewpoint. For students who are more willing to share, their card helps give them a basis for sparking further discussions.

6-8th Grade

  • Interview Assessments: Interview Assessments help teachers better gauge student progress and inform their own teaching. First, have a checklist ready of topics you want to cover with your student interviewees. Note what a proficient student should be able to say and explain about the course material. Discuss with the student during a moment of downtime, such as when the rest of the class has something to do, to help minimize disruptions. Ask the student questions that allow them to demonstrate evidence of learning. Using interview assessments can be helpful particularly for students who know a lot more than they might have shown on a test or quiz. It gives them more opportunities to recall information and share it in a quick and relaxed way. You might also consider offering interview assessments to students who struggle with test anxiety as an alternative way to show proficiency in five minutes or less.

9-12th Grade

  • Role Reading: Role Reading encourages student engagement and increases understanding of more challenging texts. First, place students in groups of three. Then, assign each group a paragraph to focus on. One student will be responsible for reading the paragraph aloud to their group. Another student will be responsible for writing a summary of the paragraph. The third student will be responsible for producing a title for the paragraph. By assigning each student a specific responsibility, they become required to listen and engage with the material. Rather than having students read the text individually, role reading helps ensure that students have a better understanding of difficult texts by working through them in different ways.

One of the best things you can do as a teacher is use fun and innovative learning techniques to better engage students and to facilitate a positive and effective learning environment. These are just some strategies that can help you make the most of the precious classroom time you have with your students. Feel free to modify these strategies as you see fit to better cater to your classroom’s specific needs!