The Golden Rule for How to Engage Students in Learning


When you first start teaching, you might be wondering how to engage your students in learning. 

Student engagement can feel daunting because it can take a lot of time, and that all of your students like to do different things in the classroom. 

Or maybe you tried something you thought would be “fun” in class but your students didn’t find it as engaging as you had hoped.

If this sounds like you, then you are not alone.

Today we are going to uncover the Golden Rule on how to engage students in learning.

In this post we will cover:

  • What Student Engagement is
  • Why Student Engagement is Important
  • The Golden Rule for How to Engage Students in Learning Using Choices

So grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started!

What is Student Engagement?

Student engagement is “The degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show while learning,” according to Ed Glossary.

In other words, it’s how “into” the lesson students are. 

It’s the degree of how enthused and involved a student is during a lesson.

There are three different kinds of student engagement. They are:

  • Behavioral Engagement
  • Emotional Engagement
  • Cognitive or Intellectual Engagement.

If you would like to learn more about what student engagement is, read this post called “The Ultimate Guide of Student Engagement Strategies in 5 Minutes or Less.”

In this post, I go into depth about what student engagement is, why it’s important, and how you can effectively incorporate it into your classroom in just 5 minutes. Click here to read it now. 

Why is Student Engagement Important?

There are several reasons why student engagement is important.

For instance, did you know that according to Brain Balance Centers “a reasonable attention span of a child is two to three minutes per year of their age?”

 So for instance:

2 years of age = 4 to 6 minutes 

4 years of age = 8 to 12 minutes

And so forth. 

This can be a frightening thought while considering student engagement, especially as a new teacher.

Students only have a couple of minutes where they are attentive due to their attention span. 

That’s why it is so important to make what time you do have their attention count. 

For more reasons why student engagement is so important, click here to read  “The Ultimate Guide of Student Engagement Strategies in 5 Minutes or Less.”

The Golden Rule for How to Engage Students in Learning

Now that you know what student engagement is, you might be wondering, what the secret to getting my students engaged?

And once I have them engaged, how do I keep them engaged?

The answer is choices.

All About Choices

You see, choices are the ability to freely pick something. 

This is important because it empowers students to take control and responsibility for their learning.

Choices also allow students to tailor learning to their way of thinking. This makes it possible for them to pick the choice that best represents their knowledge. 

For example, students might be able to choose between writing a story, making a play, or singing a song for their final project.

All of these choices allow students to creatively and authentically represent their learning in a meaningful way. Hence, enhancing their engagement in learning.

How to Engage Students in Learning With Choices

Now that we know what choices look like in the classroom, let’s talk about how to engage students in learning with choices.

Choice Boards

One way to engage students in learning with choices is something I alluded to earlier which is “Choice Boards.”

Choice Boards are a board from which a student picks. It’s a graphics organizer that allows students to choose different options.

For example, I created this one for my class. 

(Insert Choice Board)

Choice boards typically have 9 Squares and are 3 x 3.

However, for my primary students, I sometimes start them off with a 2 x 2 grid to start the year. 

These are great because students can pick the square that they want to work on and you can either write, place, or drag and drop their name to the square that they chose.

A choice board is a great way to keep things organized and a visual reminder of what students should be working on.

Some ways to use a choice board is:

  • Which flexible seating choice students are sitting in for the day
  • What students are working on when they are done with an activity
  • Which assignment or activity students are working on.

Flexible Seating

Another great way to engage students with learning with choices is to incorporate flexible seating.

Flexible seating is providing a variety of ways to sit or stand to work throughout the day.

Some examples of flexible seating are:

  • Bean Bags
  • Rubber Bands
  • Therapy Discs
  • T Stools
  • Yoga Balls

And there is so much more!

Here is a picture of what flexible seating looked like in my classroom. At the beginning of the day, students pick which seat they would like to use. 

This is a great way to accommodate different learning needs in an inclusive way!

What to Write With

This may seem simple, but another way to engage students in learning with choices is to let them choose with whom they write.

One year I had a student who was having a particularly hard time getting his work done in class. 

After talking to him I realized that he felt frustrated because he didn’t have a lot of say in which assignments we did in class during whole group instruction. 

So I gave him choices between two things. This helped pivot his mindset and gave him one more opportunity to freely choose how he completed an assignment.

I know it seems silly, but if you have a student who is having a hard time, give them two choices and see if that helps them refocus.

What to Do When Finished

You will inevitably have students finish at different times.

But what do you do with the students who finish early?

Well instead of assigning them more work, you can give them choices on what they want to complete next.

For example, using the choice board I mentioned previously, you can have students choose between working on a website that your district uses like Starfall. 

Or they could write a story, practice math facts, read a book, and so much more!

This will get your students excited to finish their work as well as help them feel in control and responsible for their learning. 

Summary of How to Engage Students in Learning

All in all, incorporating choices is the golden rule for how to engage students in learning. 

Whenever you can incorporate choices into your classroom, your students will feel more independent and grateful.

To wrap it up, in this post we covered:

  • What Student Engagement is
  • Why Student Engagement is Important
  • The Golden Rule for How to Engage Students in Learning Using Choices

I hope you found this helpful and if you are looking for even more student engagement strategies for your primary classroom, click here to download “The Ultimate Student Engagement Guide.”

With over 30 engagement strategies, you can incorporate any of these student engagement strategies in your primary classroom in just 5 minutes or less.

That’s all for today, until next time!

Happy Teaching!

The Present Teacher