Engaging Children and Teens with Learning

Whether you’re home-schooling, supporting your child with homework or teaching in one capacity or another, one of the keys to success in learning is to have engaged students.  If they’re not engaging with you, understanding and remembering what they’re supposed to be learning Engagis often lost.

Engaging the unmotivated and uninterested child or teen can at times feel like a thankless task, but everyone has their key, and that key is more likely to turn if you listen to them – to their hopes, dreams, aspirations and interests.  Figuring out a way to link them to your lesson is the challenge.

As children mature you change how you communicate with them according to their age group, otherwise they may just switch off if you’re talking to teenagers like they’re in primary school – a fairly obvious point you might say, but regardless of age difference they still need stimulation and a bit of fun. So don’t forget that:

Children want to have fun

Share enthusiasm with them

Make a game out of whatever you want them to learn

Use colours to engage

Use stories to link learning, to engage and for memorisation

Give children an active role

Provide real life experiences where possible

Be clear, concise and consistent

Be loud enough to be heard but never shout – this can cause disengagement

Make your voice interesting, not monotone!

Challenge children but don’t make it so hard that it causes them dissolution

Praise effort, not intelligence – learning from mistakes, and adopting a ‘growth mindset’

Most importantly, the ability to communicate in the right manner with your child or student – emotional intelligence and empathy is a key factor to successful engagement.  Teacher Adam Lopez very kindly shared his tips in an article in The Guardian with a link to his tips in what he calls The T Factor being used in lessons. In fact it’s vital for young people to have great role models around them that promote emotional intelligence and empathy throughout their young lives.

One of my teacher friends teaches Media Studies, Music and English, and she uses mindmaps for memorisation with her GCSE students – adding images, which the students draw themselves (helping visual learners). For the word based learners she uses revision cards, and in addition to that she does a ‘pack of cards’ where key terms are grouped into ‘families’ e.g. genre, representation, narrative, audience and language all come under the ‘concept’ family – they have to sort cards out into families – this helps with revision for essays and exams. This can be applied to pretty much most subjects that you need to recall or memorise information, including maths!

Playing ‘blockbusters’ is another favourite where each word is related to a topic – split the group into two and compete against each other for prizes – much inclusion and engagement can be had using this game. Visual quizzes also work well. For your low level learner she would give them a bank of sentence starters and they have to complete the sentences for revision – they can then use these sentences when an essay question pops up in the exam in terms of stress.  They also get massage experts into schools these days and offer 10 minute slots for students whilst the exams are on. Teaching breathing techniques, and coaching how to plan a revision timetable and sticking to it also helps stress relief.

The latter piece clearly relates to the GCSE level of learning, however much of it can still be transferred and used with other aged children.  However, while helping teenagers to learn, and being successful with engaging them, remember that they are all about relating – to them relationship is everything – make an effort in understanding teenagers and engaging with them will be far easier.


P.S. Sharing tips on engaging students in learning and memorisation always welcome!


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