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7 Ideas to Keep Students Engaged in Higher Level Thinking

Posted by Sarah Renner-Pugh on October 11, 2016
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Keeping students engaged in learning throughout the day (and year!) is difficult. According to the 2013 national Gallup Student Poll, 75% of elementary students are engaged, but that number drops to 44% of students by high school.

An excerpt from The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students by Thomas Armstrong was recently published in a Washington Post article. Armstrong said, “At a time when the adolescent’s brain increasingly craves stimulation from peers, education becomes more teacher-centered, offering less small-group interaction and cooperative learning than elementary classrooms.”

We brainstormed seven ideas to help teachers keep students engaged in higher level thinking.

  1. Break students into smaller groups to take a quiz.
    Allowing students to discuss and convince their peers helps build critical thinking skills.
  2. Ask students to describe how they would solve a problem.
    Instead of asking for just the answer, asking how to think about a question can help the class determine how to tackle future real-world problems.
  3. Provide rewards for good behavior and hard work.
    No-tolerance disciplinary policies don’t allow students to learn from their mistakes. But rewards can be different for elementary and high school students, so remember to tailor them to your students.
  4. Allow students a safe place to take risks.
    Holding a public speaking competition or encouraging students to try a new club or subject will engage students in new ways.
  5. Provide breaks from the school day.
    Students aren’t able to fully focus for the entire school day, and a recent study suggests providing frequent recess breaks (or talking breaks for older children) helps students focus and reduced reports of bullying.
  6. Brainstorm as a class or in small groups.
    Doing this activity in groups promotes creative and collaborative thinking.
  7. Offer opportunities to engage with the larger world.
    Ask students to participate in conversations about classroom topics on social media and guided forums. Then have them provide a synopsis for the class of what they learned and what information they contributed.

Do you have other techniques or ideas to encourage higher level thinking? Comment on this post or join the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #HigherLevelThinking. Teachers have already shared some great ideas!

Topics: Education Trends, K-12 Education, Education Technology

Sarah Renner-Pugh

Written by Sarah Renner-Pugh

Sarah Renner-Pugh is the Digital Marketing Manager at Chalkable. With more than 10 years of marketing and communications experience, she loves honing the voice of a brand and determining how to best reach her audience. Sarah’s diverse background includes work in advertising, higher education publishing, and non-profit consulting.