5 ways to liven up student response

As an educator, one of the most frustrating things for me is to look out into my class and see my sweet little "dears" wearing "deer in headlight" looks. The worst part? Knowing that they are not engaged. The next step? Realizing that I need to do a better job in that "department"!

But, the good news is that I can react to those blank stares in a split second when I have a few hints and simple tools at my fingertips...

1. Monkeying around the room

There are tons of structured (and pretty cool) student response systems out there. They have their place, but most learning/assessment happens more organically. So, I like to grab a fun, basic object that can be passed around the room. The first person to raise their hand to give an answer must wait until the object is handed to him/her before speaking—no blurting! I've been known to use a goofy plastic monkey statue and sometimes a whimsical pointer. Pointers are great because they serve double duty—they're perfect for presentations too.

2. Boards...so students aren't so bored.

Confession time. I have paddles in my classroom! (Ugh, not the kind of paddles you're thinking of!)

I thought I was a genius inventor. I had students write answers on small whiteboards and then all hold up their boards. That way, I could see who was incorrect and needed help without calling attention to strugglers. Problem: when the kiddos held up the boards, they smeared what they wrote—FAIL! Solution: ready-made answer boards-with handles-that had been invented already!

3. Eyes on the front of the class

Every classroom could benefit from a little bling at the front of the room to draw in students' eyes. I just make sure I don't overdo the "bedazzling" and distract students. We all decorate bulletin boards, but what about the whiteboard that's front and center? I used to snip borders out of cardboard and glue on magnets, which worked (sort of). But I just discovered new pre-decorated magnetic borders! They save time and they're less expensive (and more green!) since they're so durable.

4. Game show fun

Often my classroom is a bit like a reality TV show, so why not embrace that, right? (Did you know that game shows were the original reality TV?) I like to use low-tech devices, such as simple buzzers or buzzer consoles, to turn plain old assessment into a fun quiz bowl.

5. Patience

Sometimes, no reaction is required. Adequate wait time is critical for student response. Tick tock—kids don't think at the snap of our fingers! I must imagine wearing duct tape on my mouth so that I don't jump in right away to re-word questions or spoon feed answers. Even when (and here's the hardest part) those cute faces seem to be struggling a tad—but not too much! Patience has never been one of my strong suits. Speaking of which, is it Friday yet? Is this list of hints over yet? Wink