My experience teaching has primarily been in second grade, with my first two years in third. Even my student teaching experience was in second grade. I feel like I have a good handle on how to manage and engage the little ones. But what about older students? How do you manage and engage them? How do you motivate older students?
That’s what I will attempt to answer today!
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By the time kids get into fourth and fifth grade, the clip chart management system is a no go. I’m not even sure if the marble jar would motivate older students. They definitely don’t want to be doing work sheet after worksheet or reading passage after reading passage. (By all means, those things both have their place in the classroom- just not all the time!)
I reached out to my friends Tiffany and Courtney over at Mustard Seed Teaching for some ideas on ways to engage their older students.
Ways to Motivate Older Students
Through Classroom Management
When it comes to motivating older students, the most important part is to provide clear expectations when it comes to classroom management. (This is the area of teaching that I geek out on!) When students know your expectations are high AND know that you will hold them to those expectations, they are much more likely to buy into YOU!
We all know that before the teaching can begin, the relationship must be formed. Think about your friendships. What attributes make a good friend to you? Honest, truthful, dependable, trustworthy.
That’s what your kids want from you too. They want to know that they can believe you when you say something and I think that starts on day one by setting expectations and holding them accountable. When students learn they can trust you, then they learn to love you (okay, or maybe just like you). And when they love you, they feel more comfortable to be open and honest with you in their learning.
You want to establish classroom management routines early on so that students know what to expect from you. You also want to make sure you hold kids accountable by creating a system of how you will deal with challenging students.
Through Engaging Activities
Games and Activities- The first part is engaging older students. This can be done through fun activities with games they already know. Using a simple game of tic, tac, toe mixed in with practicing a math skill or reviewing a reading concept is an easy way to motivate older students. It’s also super easy for you because you give them the activity/worksheet and a piece of paper to play tic tac toe on. When they both answer a question, then they do a quick round of tic tac toe. This will keep them engaged while practicing the skill so that they can play tic tac toe.
Dances and Chants- You can also engage students by doing dances and chants. Tiffany is known at our campus for being the “Multiplication Chant Teacher” but she does way more chants than just multiplication facts. I’ve tried to implement this practice into my classroom more by teaching my students a place value chant, a fraction chant, and a writing process chant.
Technology- I am still so amazed at the amount of students who have technology in fifth grade. But, let’s use that to our advantage! I have walked into many fifth grade classrooms and watched them be SO motivated by playing a simple game of kahoot or quizlet on their technology. I have had fifth graders come into my classroom and share presentations they created on google slides. The resource to motivate is there, we just have to find the appropriate way to include it in our classroom.
Boost Students Confidence- Tiffany also shared she ensures all of her students, from the lowest to the highest kid in the room, KNOW that they CAN be successful on the skill at hand. Practicing and mastering the skill over and over before moving onto word problems is crucial because if a kid doesn’t even understand the concept being taught, they are going to struggle to put it into practice in a word problem. When our low students feel successful, engagement comes naturally.
Students Talking- Most of the time teachers hate when students talk. Truth be told, it drives me crazy when kids talk because I like the peace and quiet. But talking = learning. When students are talking and sharing their processes, thoughts, and questions they are engaging their brains in meaningful learning. So make sure that you provide your students with ample opportunities to talk through Kagan structures.
Leave the Activity on a High- I had forgotten about this technique till Tiffany reminded me of it this morning. When you are doing an activity with your students, you want to leave the lesson at the highest peak. When students are engaged and you end the lesson, they still have that excitement built up which will make them want to do it again. And again. And again!
Until next time,