Student Engagement Strategies for the Return to School

Over on my socials, I’ve been talking about student engagement strategies. For me, the second semester can feel a lot like back-to-school season. The fog of winter break takes over and you’re left with inattentive students. That’s when it’s crucial to introduce new, engaging activities that will get your students excited about what’s to come.

You’ll want them so intrigued that they don’t even realize they’re learning. That’s the dream, am I right?! What if I told you this is totally doable? Well, it is.

By incorporating little exciting pieces into your lesson plans, you can truly grab your student’s attention. Today, I’ll be sharing 4 of the best ways to make your lesson plans and activities more engaging. Also, I’ve included some FREEBIES to help you get started with applying these ideas to your classroom this week! 

Add New, Creative Manipulatives

i7QuAa b 48Vo8T3gKSAe k4gETYt6EYKWuzSl7HGmfzZLrd40p8udqIw6FLVT3xNsfVODGYdByfQ6gaAK8h77lnjsnOxXt3T4P15lC8VB6Msa99dopKAC98l5WHcNlHP zdv YQ

Sometimes improving student engagement can be as simple as switching out your standard manipulatives like counting chips for something more fun– like candy!

We incorporate candy into our stem projects for our Engagement Made Easy resource and the result is students who are eager to experiment.

For example, students can learn about gas when they mix candy with soda, or about buoyancy when they construct a boat to hold candy pieces. Even if you don’t want to go with food, you can find other creative objects like mini toy soldiers or any other familiar pieces that students will get a kick out of working with inside the classroom.

Apply Student Interest

oQI02DjU1KhCApmtGQldQfDXCp0 hjW8KL6o oj d7pOSzQ8cJBplz1zFTBaApwMIh3MXmS7GDEzscSvqnsWktA0UjoilJSzk5IfeFJrruuC4NZ1nlW3zZLcpmEFBWBaSC4lARky

One of the best things you can do for your classroom is to find topics and themes that are of interest to your students and incorporate them into your lesson plans. Hands down, this is one of my favorite student engagement strategies because they get to feel like they are a part of something, that you’re listening to them, and that school is more than just work.

I enjoy adding characters like the superheroes you see pictured above. Now, you don’t have to go all-in as I have with costumes, but you can easily use themed activities like our Superhero Riddle game for an exciting way to solve addition with regrouping problems. For example, students can work in groups or individually to solve riddles and unscramble messages like the superheroes they see on TV.

So fun!

Get Hands-On with Crafts

I probably don’t even have to tell you about how crafts and hands-on activities will improve overall engagement in your classroom! It’s a given because students will be actively creating and making their bodies move which is the key to a successful day.

One way I like to make this work is with story summary beads! You can combine crafts and movement while students learn about retelling a story.

For this example, they create a bracelet with beads of different colors each representing a different part of a story they read, then they give a summary by moving the beads around as they go through each part. The beads help students to remember and reinforce the skill.

That’s why crafts are so effective because they are reinforcers. We make sure to include lots of hands-on activities in our All-Star Reading activities.

Use a Chant

uOnNc8E7 ooUWyKf2agz51XNHZfiGKmINPY BUaRLJ4 c38gW34pXDHgaAv eyq8eS0e2kEGGbk1 LbPjXw XbteMJ5jybkLcgwxDpsenfeAHRQg8IqHntI 2Q6SkSW7plJjzwGo

Speaking of reinforcements and memory, chants are your best friends! They are there rooting you on as you try to teach important skills, like summarizing, to your students.

This student engagement strategy is almost like a tradition that gets passed on over and over again. By incorporating chants, your students will be using their senses to connect with the important points you’re trying to make and they will be unlikely to forget them at all.

Here’s a chant I created for our Reading Toolkit with activities for summary and central idea to give you an example of how it works. You can also use this chant in your classroom!

Student engagement is all about using manipulatives they will love, getting to know their interests and using them, getting crafty, and just having a little fun with music and movement! I would really love to know how these student engagement strategies help you in your day-to-day. Leave a comment below or share it with me on Instagram or Facebook!

Now, here’s the best part. I have a candy stem activity AND the regrouping riddle activity as FREEBIES for you to try in your classroom!

  • Just use the form below to get the candy stem project sent straight to your inbox so you can get back to teaching in an engaging way. 

Save for Later

Pin the image below to your Pinterest boards to save for later!

Student Engagement Activities

Hi, I'm Amy

Hey, y’all! My name is Amy Lemons and I am passionate about providing students with both engaging and effective standards-based Math and ELA lessons.


Sample a day of Rooted in Reading with these lesson plans and activities for Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Grammar!