7 Activities For Engaging Students This School Year


“They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Carol Buchner

Many of us will be meeting a new set of learners we get to guide and make an impact on this year. We have the mission to engage our students with the content, and more importantly, inspire them to be continuous learners. We have several methods and tools to choose from to teach content, including the most widely used, coursebooks and worksheets. These are just one set of tools in our teachers’ kit of ways to engage learners. I’d like you to consider getting your students to accomplish some of the activities listed. As educators, we should experiment with various instructional strategies that inspire our learners to explore and make personal connections with the content.

Share Their Stories

Each learner has a story to tell about their experiences and connections to the content. Encourage learners to create movies, comics, books, podcasts, and/or vodcasts of how they interpret the content. 100s of free web tools and mobile apps allow learners to create stories with characters, backgrounds, creative commons music, their own photos/ drawings, and more. Find many digital storytelling tools, apps, examples and ideas listed in this LiveBinder of digital storytelling resources. If you don’t have access to the Internet, they can always produce digital stories using cell phones, digital cameras, and/or computer programs like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

Publish Their Work Online

Learners worldwide are sharing their creations and talents on various social tools, like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. We have an incredible opportunity to motivate our students to explore the content beyond the classroom walls if we create virtual spaces where our students can publish their work and receive feedback. Two free educational platforms that many teachers recommend are Edmodo and Kid Blog. Beware of the age requirements and  privacy settings of any tool you use. Also, make sure to get parents to sign Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) where they detail what they will allow to be published. Find many AUPs for you to download, edit, and use here.

Organize Their Ideas in a Graphic Organizer

Graphic organizers help break down vast amounts of information into more manageable chunks. They help learners think critically. Learners can use concept maps to explore a theme further and list examples from their experiences. There are 100s of graphic organizers to support any subject matter. Many free online tools help learners complete multimedia  graphic organizers with links, videos, images, and audio. Find many free mobile brainstorming apps here and free tools in this PearlTree, a mindmap of bookmarks.

Have Class Time to Explore Their Interests

Consider ideas like 20% time or Genius Hour, where students are given dedicated blocks of class time to design their own projects that explore what they are passionate about.

Make a Global Connection

Tools like Skype and Google HangOuts make it easy to quickly connect with students, authors, and subject matter experts across the globe. When I was teaching 4 to 6 year-olds in Germany, we Skyped with a boy in the UK who taught us origami and we created a digital story on Voicethread with children in Turkey. Most companies are global so it is important our students learn how to interact with peers worldwide. Check out the various ideas listed here.


Learners of all ages enjoy play. Play helps us explore content hands-on. One activity I use with students of all ages is I Spy with my Mobile Device. I preteach the content, then students are given about 5 minutes to take a close-up picture that represents what they learn. For example, if you teach geometry shapes, a student might take a close-up shot of a chapstick tube. The student would then show another peer the picture. The peer would have to guess what geometric shape is represented and identify the object. Find various games for young learners bookmarked here.

Establish Connections with Their Peers

The first days of school are important for helping our students begin to build relationships with their classmates. Icebreakers, team building and getting to know you activities make it easier for students to talk to and learn about each other. These activities help prevent bullying and the creation of clics, because it is difficult to be consistently mean to a friend versus a stranger. These activities promote a classroom culture of trust and respect. Many language learners fail to contribute to discussions because they fear making mistakes in front of strangers. When the students get to know each other, they begin to feel more confident making mistakes. Find getting to know you activities for teens and adults here and those for children here. You can find various icebreaker activities here.

More Resources

What other ideas do you have?


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