50 Hacks That Make Every Single Student Love You and Your Class

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many James Sturtevants
Do students wish you were 10 Times Better?

Do students hate your class? Do they hate you? Think long and hard before you answer. I often hear my own children say, “I can’t stand that class”.

There were plenty of times in my 23 years as a classroom teacher that students were saying, “I hate Mr. Barnes”. They didn’t usually say it to me directly, but bad news travels fast in school buildings.

Sadly, for a long time, I didn’t care if students hated me or my class. “I’m here to teach them–not to be their friend,” I’d boast to colleagues. Truth be told, it did both me. What am I doing wrong, I wondered.

The answer was elusive back then but after a full decade in the classroom, I figured it out: Students hated me because I was boring, grouchy, and seemingly uncaring. They hated my class because it was not engaging. They rarely saw any connection between my lessons and their world.

My personality and rapport-building skills needed a makeover and my teaching strategies needed to be hacked.

50 hacks that make students love you and your class

I wish I had known Jim Sturtevant 20 years ago. Ironically, we live about two hours apart but only met a few years ago on the social network Voxer. I call Jim the Engagement Guru. He is one of only a handful of 30-year teachers I know who truly gets better with each passing year.

Jim makes no secret of how much he still loves teaching, and if you listen to his Hacking Engagement Podcast, you’ll see how much his students love him.

How does he do it? Easy. He never stops creating new hacks for engaging and bonding with learners.

Here are 50 hacks from Jim’s new book, Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips & Tools To Engage Teachers and Learners Daily. Each is sure to make students love your class and love you, too.

Hack 1: Entice Reluctant Readers with QR Codes
Hack 2: Adventures in Classroom Management
Hack 3: Let Me See You Google
Hack 4: Engage as You Gauge with SurveyMonkey
Hack 5: Create Celebrity Couple Nicknames
James Sturtevant's celebrity nickname game
Students love the celebrity nickname hack
Hack 6: Class Procedures Night at the Improv
Hack 7: Create a Movie Trailer for Your Class
Hack 8: Build a Student Avatar
Hack 9: Build a Classroom Identity and Nurture Belonging
Hack 10: Show Them What’s Possible
Hack 11: Upgrade Student Grade Contracts
Hack 12: Get to Know Students Through Reverse Engineering

James Sturtevant author of Hacking Engagement

Hack 13: Be Observant and Find the Elusive Spark
Hack 14: Hash Out a Hashtag
Hack 15: Bring in an Artifact for Show-and-Tell
Hack 16: Break the Ice Ice Baby
Hack 17: Collaborate Globally with Voxer
Hack 18: Build an Extensive Student Support Network
Hack 19: Present for Ten, Then Collaborate for Ten
Hack 20: Ride the Podcast Tide
Hack 21: Empower Students to Help You Uncover Your Biases
Hack 22: Challenge Students to Solve a Mystery
Hack 23: Become a Grand Inquisitor
Hack 24: Dare Kids to Write on a Virtual Bulletin Board
Create your own
Hack 25: Liberate Exceptional Students
Hack 26: Engage the Enraged
Hack 27: Bust Down the Walls of Your Classroom
Hack 28: Go Ahead and Be Flippant
Hack 29: Become a Proponent of the Exponent
Hack 30: Avoid the Great War on Yoga Pants
Hack 31: Transcend Transience
Hack 32: Engage as you Grade
Hack 33: Roll out the Reading Roles
Click image and fill your toolkit
Hack 34: Let Them Build It
Hack 35: Transform Your Class into a Focus Group
Hack 36: Obsess over Group Dynamics
Hack 37: Let Your Freak Flag Fly (Every educator needs to know this)
Hack 38: Assess Your Assessments
Hack 39: Trade Blah, Blah, Blah for Zen
Hack 40: Be More Like Hocking College
Hack 41: Gather Students Around the Fire
Hack 42: Corral the Word “Like”
Hack 43: Surround Yourself with Ancient Greeks
Meritocracy Mondays from Hacking Engagement
Give students the “fingers”. It’s OK.
Hack 44: Show-and-Tell 2.0: The Open Mic
Hack 45: Mandate Meritocracy Mondays
Hack 46: Entice Students to Do Hill Sprints
Hack 47: Peerless Peer Teaching with the Vowel Squad
Hack 48: Banish Blogging Blandness
Hack 49: Turn Your Students into Five-Year-Olds
Hack 50: Channel Your Inner Yoga Teacher


In Hacking Engagement, Jim Sturtevant explains how these hacks not only engage learners but how they improve achievement. Best of all, you can try any of these right now, using Jim’s simple What You Can Do Tomorrow steps in each hack.

Learn more about Hacking Engagement at hackingengagement.com, and be sure to let us know which hacks make your students love you and your class.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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