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Maximum Student Engagement!

Hello Blog Hoppin’ friends!  Holly Ehle here, from 
Every summer I strive to set a few new professional goals for myself.  Thanks to the inspiration of Hope King’s “Set the Stage 2 Engage” SDE session in Vegas  and Kim Bearden’s new CRASH COURSE book, I’m so excited about one of my goals that I’m almost bursting at the seams! 

It’s all about improving…

Student Engagement

Now, if you know me at all…you already know that I’m a fan of teaching a little bit “out of the box” at times. My costume closet is packed, and even though I am NOT a singer…I’ve been known to rock out some pretty epic educational rap songs.  I mean, hey.  if we are going to be in a classroom all day…we might as well have fun, right?! 

But folks, it’s SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!

So what is Student Engagement, really?

Pictures from Primary Graffiti's Dinosaur Themed Unit

In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.
Student engagement occurs when students are
·        invested in their own learning
·        taking pride in NOT simply earning “grades,” but in understanding the material
·         incorporating the material they learn into their lives
You know what I’m talkin’ about!!! 
I know you’ve seen these signs of engagement during a project, presentation or lively class lesson you’ve led!  And if you are like me, when you caught those glimpses of the inspired inner-world of a child, you’ve hoped that someday you will find a way to sustain that wonder, enthusiasm and perseverance every single day in your classroom!
So, now that we know WHAT it is…
How the heck do we go about ENGAGING these kids?
Research shows that students are motivated by…

#1 – Success (Students have an internal need for mastery.)

#2 - Curiosity (Students have a need to understand, make sense of and organize information.)

#3 – Originality (Students have a need to express themselves, have choice, and show creativity.)

#4 – Relationships (Students have a need for building satisfying relationships with others.)

BUT…research also reveals that before students will truly even “buy into” or become “engaged” in their work…that they must first be…


Thus… when planning lessons/units, we all need to think about how we “set the stage” for the rigorous content that we want to teach. How are we “hooking” our kiddos into our lessons? 

Visual appeal and real-life connectable “themes” DO MATTER!

Here’s a little FREEBIE I hope will help you become more “intentional” about planning for student engagement.

So enough “teacher talk”…let’s see what an engaging instructional unit looks like in ACTION!  My friend Cheryl knows all about that....

I'm Cheryl Saoud from and couldn't be more excited to share my annual Camping with Books. 

Teaching thematic units can be extremely rewarding. Integrated curriculum reaches a variety of learning styles by helping students to take control of their own learning while having tons of fun. Instruction is planned to accommodate individual interests while fostering teamwork.  The content is centered around a theme with hands on activities and weaving  various disciplines around a central idea. 

Setting the stage provides my students with the magic needed to believe!  We don't mimic camping, we are nestled deep within an enchanting forest with a babbling brook perfectly twisting through our campsite.  Our fire crackles, glowing red, orange, and yellow.  The night animals are on the prowl as we learn by lantern light and listening to nocturnal sounds.

Our learning begins the week prior to our themed days.  We draw upon our schema and build upon our previous experience to learn about forest animals and camp safety.  As the our week long event draws near, the kids collaborate to decorate the campsite. 

Have you ever seen HGTV?  At some point the designers kick the homeowners out so that there is an overwhelming emotional connection to the final design.  My units are no different.  To ensure ownership, the kids help with the backdrop and hang the decorations with my assistance, but once the final bell rings, my doors are locked closed where I bring in the necessary props to make this experience authentic.

Students are further engaged when weaving our spring content in this culminating unit.  Insects and life cycles are hands-on and exciting for our young learners.  After eight years, I've acquired a collection of creepy crawlers that captivate my young learners and inspire a full day of themed learning.


Interested in learning more about student engagement? Here are a few GREAT resources to get you started:

Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me
This incredible resource will take you through 17 “courses” that will not only teach you about the essentials of student engagement… but will also teach you priceless lessons about becoming the best teacher (and person) you can be!  Not to mention, you’ll be breaking out in both tears and laughter within minutes!  #so inspiring
Click image to link to my book review of Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me.  Don't forget to grab a tissue!

Hope King has an incredible, BRAND new unit that we highly recommend for learning how to set the stage for high student engagement. 

It's HOT off the presses!  #getchaone


  1. I am so glad I stopped by! Student Engagement is HUGE for me with my classroom full of students with special needs! Thanks so much for all the tips and ideas!

    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

  2. I enjoyed reading this post so much. I've been teaching for over 30 years and my most successful and memorable teaching has involved teaching across the curriculum with thematic units. We kick off our year with a study of bears, both fictional and nonfictional (We live right outside a national park and bears even visit our campus on occasion). Thank you for reminding me how important it is to actively involve children in their learning, to build a strong community and to keep learning fun! Wonderful!

  3. Really enjoyed looking through your blog!!
    Client engagement