How Teachers Can Engage Their Students In Learning At Back To School Time

Engaging students to learn

The room echoes with excitement as kids reconnect with classmates when they arrive, but that quickly fizzles when it is time to actually do some work. Groans can be heard and the grumbling starts. Some are happy to do the activities planned and others want to get outside and play or take out electronics and zone out. And so it begins.
Kids are not always excited to return to school and start studying again. What can you do to engage your students and get them excited to learn after a summer break from learning? The answer to that question will be different for each person depending on their personality, experience, and classroom situation, but there are some things that could work for most teachers. Here are a few suggestions to get your kids motivated and wanting to learn the first weeks back at school.

Take learning outside

Kids have been enjoying the summer break and hopefully they have been spending time having fun outdoors. If you wish to keep them interested when they return to school, try to incorporate some outside activities during the day. These could be review activities, exploration, science activities, or maybe even body breaks and daily PE. I know that my students were eager to get outside and do hands on activities and it helped to make the transition back into school easier for them.

​Check out my blog post about taking learning outdoors for the fall for some specific types of activities.

Community building

Have you ever had a group of kids that were a challenge? Did you wonder if you would be able to get them to sit still, listen and cooperate? Building community is especially important with these types of situations. It is important to build respect and caring in the classroom. This can be encouraged by doing partner activities and group activities that help kids to meet their classmates and learn more about them. You may even need to add some specific classroom management systems. As you are figuring out where they fit in academically, you can start doing games and activities that foster teamwork and respect. Activities that foster positive self esteem and help to develop self confidence could also be a focus.

Focus in developing positive self esteem

Beginning the year with activities that focus on positive self esteem and classroom management will ensure that children have the tools for a successful year. There are many different ways of creating a caring and positive classroom. It is important that you choose what works best for you.

I always start out with teaching about optimism and a positive attitude. I also use bucket filling activities and acts of kindness as a focus.

Here is more about what I tried in my classroom to develop positive self esteem and help kids blossom and display increased self confidence about themselves. 

Move, move, move

Just like teachers, kids are tired at the beginning of the year as they start up new routines and stay in class for several hours. Incorporating movement and organizing classroom activities for transitions will help keep kids energized so that they stay focused and alert. 

Games and body breaks work well to keep kids active. Doing hands on activities and partner games also work well. 

Rules and routines

Kids are creatures of habit as well as adults although they may not be aware of this yet. Having routines and schedules that they can follow will help them to be able to regulate and focus on what is expected during the day and the week. There will be times when unexpected events and situations happen, but with some pre-planning and teaching, we can prepare them for these happenings and avoid meltdowns.

Create classroom rules and establish routines that work for your students. Depending on the age of your students, you can take their ideas into consideration and create the rules together. This is a great community building activity as well. 
Here is a set of routine and schedule cards that I created that may be useful for the classroom. I have made them in both English and French. You can grab your copy from the followers free resources page if you are already a newsletter subscriber. Otherwise, click on the image to get your free copy.

First week back activities

When selecting activities for the first week of school choose a mix of fun activities that review concepts and skills from the year before to ensure that they are not lost somewhere in distant memory after a summer of no school and that they will be able to use them to build on for new concepts and skills to be taught. We have all probably experienced the situations where kids stare blankly at us as if they had never heard of the subject before.

If you get your previous students back for the first few days, you will want to ensure that they are doing something that is not a direct repeat of the previous year. It can be similar, but they will respond better if it is varied and approached from a different angle this year. 

You may have new students in your class as well. They will need to be able to handle the material given as well. They won't be familiar with your teaching style yet, and they may or may not have covered the same material last year, so there will need to some differentiation and extra support in certain cases.

If you are looking for some back to school activities, check out my back to school category. These activities are geared to primary and cover some basic math and language skills.
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I hope these ideas help to make your school year start up successful. Have a wonderful year.

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