Monitoring Student Interest by Walking Around-Part 2: Strategies for Student Engagement

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about walking around to demonstrate withitness. But walking around can also help keep students engaged.

Teach on Your Feet, Not in Your Seat

“Teach on your feet, not in your seat…” A wise mentor taught me that mantra when I was a new teacher. It’s true. Teachers are, and should be, on their feet most of the day, monitoring students’ work and learning processes by walking around.

In the Marzano Instructional Framework, Element 24: “Noticing when students are not engaged” sits at the top of a list of specific engagement strategies proven to heighten students’ interest and attention to the instructional task at hand. Noticing student engagement is the over-arching and ever-present anchor of Design Question 5. The natural tendency of students, and of people in general, is to move in and out of periods of engagement or attention to what is going on. Because the desired outcome is cognitive engagement and not just compliance, teachers want a “Yes” answer to each of two important engagement questions which must be the constant backchannel in the teacher’s mind as the lesson progresses:

• Are the students paying attention?
• Are the students interested?

Observers in Their Own Classrooms

I order to truly notice when students are not engaged, teachers need to take on the role of observers in their own classrooms, constantly watching for signs of disengagement and lack of interest. Although the teacher herself may be caught up in the content of the lesson, she must stay cognizant of the way it is being received [or not!] by the learners.

Are They Paying Attention? Are They Interested?

How do you know?  It’s usually easier to notice if the students are paying attention than to tell if they are interested. Watch for signs of both.

When students are paying attention, there is lots of:

            • Eye contact

            • Head nodding

            • Raising of hands in response to questions

            • Doing what’s asked

            • Getting to work promptly

When students are interested, you may see:

            • Lots of participation

            • Enthusiasm in voices and actions

            • Sense of purpose on tasks

            • Energy

            • Lots of questions being asked

            • Challenging classmates

            • Ideas that go beyond what was asked

Be Aware!

Whether it’s whole group instruction, small group interactions, or independent work, teachers must be aware of the attention and interest level of their students. Although scanning the class works to monitor for engagement, walking around the classroom is best. When there is a “No” answer to one of the engagement questions, teachers need to take action in order to re-engage students, using one of the proven strategies included in The Art and Science of Teaching or Classroom Management that Works. When students are engaged and interested, learning happens and achievement results!

How do you know if your students are paying attention and are interested? Share your expertise in the comments section below.

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