Whether you’re a new teacher nervous about holding your students’ interest or an experienced teacher struggling with a particularly bored or easily distracted group of preschoolers, keeping preschoolers engaged is difficult. But there are techniques you can use to make your teaching more engaging.
How to Engage Your Preschoolers in Learning Activities
You’ve been there before. Er, well…I know I certainly have.
You’ve eagerly put together what, on paper, looks like the perfect lesson plans for [insert theme of choice], and your lesson ends up feeling like a total flop.
Not because you weren’t prepared or didn’t have thew right materials.
Not because you weren’t enthusiastic.
Not because you didn’t have the know-how to effectively teach.
But because your students weren’t engaged.
You flopped. I have flopped.
There are a lot of things to consider when planning a lesson for engagement. Keeping preschoolers engaged is no easy task. What with so many methodologies and protocol to follow from the top down, sometimes it’s just darn hard to execute the perfect lesson that really engages our students.
This post is about how to change that.
It’s about new methods and strategies to try out that will help break up the monotony of the everyday routine-oriented lesson and re-engage our students. Because if we can’t keep our preschoolers engaged, we can’t teach them, which means they can’t learn.
I’m happy to partner with Study.com in creating this post.
Tips for Engaging the Bored Preschooler
As if teaching preschool isn’t hard enough, sometimes (or more often than we’d like to admit) we get preschoolers who just don’t seem to hold any interest for the activities we prepare for them.
Here are a few new methods of teaching to try out:
Mix up learning formats
It’s all too easy to fall back on traditional methods such as doing worksheets or lecturing. (Yes, I’ve seen lecturing in preschool!) And there certainly is room for both of these activities, within reason, and when the time is appropriate.
However, students often stay more engaged and alert when you use a variety of materials and switch activities every 15 minutes or less.
You might break down longer class blocks into segments even as small as 5-10 minutes. So, a class period might look like this:
· Segment 1: “Traditional” lesson introducing basic concepts, allowing time for Q&A and a few examples.
· Segment 2: An interactive activity in small groups.
· Segment 3: A short video, followed by discussion.
· Segment 4: An online quiz, game, or preschool centers challenging students to apply what they’ve learned.
Of course, your precise needs will depend on the age group of your preschoolers and content you’re teaching, but the basic principle holds true; combine different techniques, exercises, and activities for the best results.
Once students have encountered a particular concept from a variety of angles, they’ll have a more thorough grasp of it. This is true of every age group.
Plus, the short transitional time between segments acts as natural “reset” button, giving students a moment to collect their thoughts and focus again.
Provide “brain breaks”
Studies have shown that it’s hard to maintain a high level of concentration for an extended amount of time, so it’s a good idea to build short breaks and transitions into your lessons.
Often, these breaks occur naturally in the school day (in between activities, breaks for snacks and recess, etc.), but even if you’re teaching a longer period of time (or any chunk of time longer than about 40 minutes) you might want to consider this when you structure your lessons plans.
A brain break can be as simple as a 3-5 minute stretching break or a transition in between activities, such as the transition from watching a video to working in small groups. The short time it takes students to push their desks together and settle down into their groups is actually valuable time for resetting focus. And the extra bit of movement is good for their brains, too.
Take advantage of technology.
When used judiciously, new technology has a lot to offer, even for preschoolers As mentioned up above, short video lessons, games, or even online quizzes are a great way to mix things up and keep students motivated.
A good video lesson can break down complex topics into an accessible format with engaging visuals, charts, and graphics. Some videos may use humor, which has been shown to boost retention: In other words, students tend to remember things they find funny.
One suggestion: Look for brief (5-15-minute) video lessons covering only one or two key concepts, especially for preschool and elementary students. A video that goes on for hours and hours can lull students into a stupor or make them passive learners, while a short and snappy video can do just the opposite, grabbing their attention, piquing their interest, and getting them ready to apply their new knowledge.
Movement is beneficial in so many ways, and unsurprisingly, it’s also good for learning. Research suggests that students learn better when they are allowed and even encouraged to move around the classroom—No need for a free-for-all, but there are controlled ways to add movement to your class.
Consider adding short movement breaks into your lessons—even 30 seconds of vigorous movement can reenergize your students. Other options: Have students come up to write on the whiteboard, plan hands-on activities and science experiments, organize outdoors excursions if possible, or bring students to the front of the class to demonstrate concepts.
Want to Learn More About How to Engage Your Students?
Then I have to refer you to Study.com. Their website contains over 25,000 videos that break down concepts into manageable chunks and are engaging to students! They literally have a video on every subject imaginable and they also host educational computer games and quizzes, too. The use the these videos and technology can make your classroom so much more interactive and engaging!
And you know what, over 15,000 of those videos are only 5-8 minutes long, which is just the right length for preschoolers. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Some of the readers who end up on my site are looking for help in teaching their preschooler quantification skills. Well, Study.com has 188 videos about quantification for preschool and kindergarden!
But here’s my favorite part!
They have a portal for new teachers! If you are a preschool teacher aspiring to gain a degree, Study.com offer text prep courses and videos, too. These could be a life-saver. (I wish I’d had a resource like this when I was getting my certification 15 years ago).
If you’re still working on your teacher certification, then you’re probably all too familiar with the challenge of staying focused. Studying for the Praxis, TExES, or FTCE exams can seem daunting, especially if you already work long hours. Luckily, there are resources available to streamline this process and help you acquire the expertise you need. Study.com’s comprehensive courses for these exams include thousands of practice questions and video lessons, as well as multiple study guides. These courses help you stay organized and motivated so you can continue giving 100% to your students.
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction