Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

How to Make Engagement a Top Priority When Lesson Planning

How to Make Engagement a Top Priority When Lesson Planning

By Jessica Sanders

Engaged students are more likely to understand and apply new information, according to the authors of Teaching Everyone. Most teachers would also agree that students may be more excited to learn when engaging teaching methods are used.

However, assuming that engagement will happen automatically is a mistake. Without a little nudge from you, students likely stay in the passive role of listening and observing from their seats.

Instead of waiting for it to happen “naturally,” make engagement a top priority in your lesson planning. This makes it easy to facilitate and maximize during class time, without taking away from your lesson.

When planning your lessons with engagement in mind, there are three important aspects to consider: how you define engagement, and how you plan to facilitate it, and when it will happen. Dive deeper into each one of these to find out how you can make engagement a top priority in your lessons.

1. Define Engagement

The definition of successful engagement is not only different for each classroom and teacher, but it may change from lesson to lesson. While planning, consider what would qualify a student as engaged in that particular situation, so you can ensure it happens.

Examples of defining engagement could be:

  • I want students to take notes on a laptop for the duration of the lecture.
  • I want students to write a question in our classroom discussion forum during a 15-minute engagement break.

2. Determine Your Engagement Time

Students can engage with your lesson at two different times: during and after. Each one has its own benefit, and the one you choose will likely depend on your students’ attention spans and ability to focus.

During the Lesson

Students can engage with the lesson and content during your lecture and give you real-time feedback, at the same time.

For example, have students Tweet once during the lesson, allowing them to Tweet once with a question or comment about what they just learned—limiting it to one ensures that they are still paying attention.

“Have students create a mind map, adding and labeling terms or book characters they just learned about. This quick activity is not only engaging, but can help improve their comprehension of the subject.”

Use this information to modify your lesson on the fly. Based on the questions and comments they tweeted, you may find that most students are confused about a topic you just covered, so you can go back and revisit it for better understanding.

After the Lesson

For some groups of students (those who may struggle with sitting still and listening for long periods of time), engagement may be best suited for after the initial lecture is over, or in between various topics within one lesson.

For a post- or mid-lesson engagement activity, have students create a mind map, adding and labeling terms or book characters they just learned about. This quick activity is not only engaging, but can help improve their comprehension of the subject.

3. Choose a Tech-Based Engagement Vehicle

In the previous section, a few tools for encouraging engagement were mentioned, including Twitter and mind maps. There are many more tools, both online and off, that will help your students engage with the content of your lesson. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.


Movement, whether it’s clapping hands, snapping fingers, or standing up, can get students more engaged in the lesson.

– Try it: Tristan de Frondeville, contributor for Edutopia, suggests using hand-clapping patterns to go with chanting math facts. Facilitate this movement with, an app that helps get your students moving for short periods of time.

Collaboration Tools

Use apps and websites during class time to encourage students to participate in lectures.

– Try it: Create a private, online discussion forum for your class, and allow students to share thoughts, questions and ideas at certain points in the lesson; perhaps every 15 minutes. They’ll be motivated to listen closely to what you’re teaching so they have something to add to the conversation.

The 3-2-1 Blog Post

Implement a 3-2-1 summary blog post assignment. At the end of every lesson, students have to record three things they learned, two things they found interesting, and one question they have.

– Try it: Use this when finishing a major theme in class to ensure that students grasped the concepts completely.

While these aren’t the only ways to prepare for and encourage engagement during a lesson, the ideas presented work as a good starting point. Consider what would work best with your students, try a few tools and tactics, and adjust your lesson plans when you’re able to see what works and what doesn’t.

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