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How to jumpstart engagement in the classroom

Welcome to my first post of 2023, Superheroes! I hope you all had a magical holiday season and your semester is off to a great start, too. New semesters are both exciting and stressful as we are all eager to get back to learning, but getting back into that mindset can be a challenge. Luckily, I’ve found some great techniques and resources that can help jumpstart learning in the new year. Read on to find out more!

Setting intentions

Setting intentions is one of the most powerful tools to help teachers and students readjust after a long break. Intentions push us to clearly define our goals, discover the reason for wanting to achieve them and help us create a path to do so. Intentions are flexible and can be updated each day or remain the same for the rest of the school year. Just be sure intentions are written in a positive frame of light and displayed for all to see. Student intentions may range from “move more” to “be fully present” or “ask more questions.”

Students can also create vision boards to proudly display their intentions. Check out this helpful video describing how to use Google Slides to make virtual vision boards. If you need a break from virtual assignments, Barnes Jewish College has a fun and well-organized vision board activity. Download it for free here

Practice mindfulness

Many of my students experience anxiety when beginning a new semester, and incorporating mindfulness into my curriculum has been a game-changer. Guided meditation videos like this one are quick and easy ways to help students ground into the present moment. If your students enjoy this activity, head over to Mindful Moments for more engaging videos and activities. 

Have restless students? Use these engaging activities to teach students how to measure their own heart rate while also exploring different mindful breathing and meditation techniques. My students enjoyed competing to see who’s heart rate decreased the most. Whatever works to keep them engaged! 

Tactile learners can create their own calming jars using a mason jar, food coloring, glitter, glue and water. These are highly effective mindfulness tools because they appeal to the visual, auditory and tactile senses all at once. Check out this great resource for inspiration and instructions. 

Get moving!

“Move more” was a popular intention amongst my seniors, so I was inspired to find ways to get them moving more during the day.

To get my students up and moving, thirty-second dance parties are my go-to. Some of our favorites include the Cha Cha Slide, The Sid-Shuffle: Continental Drift and Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. Dancing is not only great for a quick physical break but for a mental-break, too. Plus, your students can calculate their active heart rates after they bust some moves. 

Dancing might not be for everyone, so collaborate as a class to make a “Let’s Get Moving” Activity Jar instead. Give each student two to three pieces of paper, and have them write out a different heart-pumping activity on each piece. Examples include, “Do five jumping jacks,” or “Run in place for 20 seconds.” Make sure each student adds their ideas to the jar so you have plenty of options to choose from when your students are running low on energy or need a boost. 

Looking for a less intense way to get your students’ blood flowing while also improving their mood and concentration? Challenge them to master a “yoga pose of the day.” Students can practice their tree or warrior poses while listening to the relaxing sounds of nature. New to yoga? Verywellfit has you covered. Also, experienced yogis can try mastering these more advanced poses

Getting students back into a learning mindset can be challenging, but these activities are great tools to get you moving in the right direction. 

Which of the above activities are you trying first? Let us know at @ArizonaEducator on Twitter or Arizona PBS KIDS on Facebook!


About the author

Ashley Burkart is a Senior STEM Teacher at Bioscience High School in Phoenix. STEM research was her first passion as she holds a Masters in Biomedical Science from Midwestern University. When she isn’t teaching tomorrow’s leaders, she is either hanging out with her dogs, Raven and Bailey, or hiking the beautiful mountains of Arizona. 

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