5 Surefire Ways to Engage Students the First Week of School

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student engagement - James Alan Sturtevant

My good friend Jim Sturtevant is the most engaging teacher I’ve ever known. On his blog and his Hacking Engagement podcast, Sturtevant helps educators learn to engage students in all grades and subjects.

In a recent blog post, the author Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips and Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily shares 5 surefire ways to engage students during the crucial first week of school.

Excerpt from the James Alan Sturtevant Blog

My first week of school is right around the corner. It’s hard to give up summer. I love teaching, but work is work! It’s awfully cool to wake up and not have to perform a lesson plan.

It’s wonderful to have your day magically unfold absent of a bell schedule. But hey…we’re teachers and pretty soon it’ll be showtime! I’m going to motivate you to grab your students by the virtual lapels and engage them in that crucial first week of the semester.

Today, my daughter-in-law and I were discussing TV shows. A while back, I encouraged her to watch a Netflix series called “House of Cards”. This afternoon, when I asked Niki if she’d watched, she responded, “I watched the first episode and it was slow. I’m sorry! I gave up on it.”

I thought WOW…what an important message for educators. I feel confident that if my daughter-in-law gave “House of Cards” more time, she’d be hooked. But as far as Niki was concerned, the series’ window of opportunity had closed.

I feel confident that if my daughter-in-law gave “House of Cards” more time, she’d be hooked. But as far as Niki was concerned, the series’ window of opportunity had closed.

Comparing your class to a television series, I’ll admit, is problematic. But nonetheless, my comparison should inspire you to think about the crucial nature of engaging students right out of the chutes…that first week. Your kids could be like my daughter-in-law. When confronted with a plodding first episode, she chose to change the channel. Or, you could leave students on the edge of their seats…chomping at the bit…anticipating the next day’s lesson!

Your kids could be like my daughter-in-law. When confronted with a plodding first episode, she chose to change the channel. Or, you could leave students on the edge of their seats…chomping at the bit…anticipating the next day’s lesson!

Research points to the crucial nature of student engagement. Put simply, when kids are engaged, they learn. Throughout my 31 year career in public education, my driving mantra when I craft a lesson…and I’ve produced thousands of them, is and has always been.

Throughout my 31 year career in public education, my driving mantra when I craft a lesson…and I’ve produced thousands of them, is and has always been...Will this lesson engage students? The objective of this post is to share 5 tactics that will enthrall your students that pivotal first week. Included in each tactic, are links to the

Included in each tactic, are links to the Hacking Engagement Podcast where these ideas are explored in further depth. If you like what you read…you’ll love what you hear!

1. Become More Approachable

John Hattie in his landmark 2007 book Visible Learning promoted the idea that student-teacher relationships are essential to the learning process.

When students feel a bond with their teachers, they’re engaged and they learn! But forging these bonds is tricky. Often teachers, very understandably, come on too strong in that first week.

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Instead of repelling your students by interrogating them or stalking them, why not practice some reverse engineering? Let them first get to know you first. Become more approachable by sharing some trivial and harmless aspects of your daily existence. . . .

2. Produce a Class Trailer 

A few years ago, I went to the movies with my wife. Before the main feature, we watched some fascinating trailers for upcoming shows. After one engaging preview, my wife and I rotated toward one another and said, “Let’s come and see that when it debuts!”

As soon as I turned back to face the screen, I immediately thought, I need to do a trailer for my class!

I did! So should you!

Read the remaining tips at jamesalansturtevant.com 

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Mark Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 115,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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