Back to School In a Flash: Student Engagement (Freebie Included!)

It's the final week of our Back to School In a Flash link up! Many of you are already in school or are heading back very shortly!! As you read this, I am sitting on an island up in Northern Minnesota enjoying some rest and relaxation still. But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking of school (I CAN have fun and think of school at the same time... at least at the beginning of a fresh new school year- I'm so excited for it)! I'm using this extra time this summer (we start after Labor Day still, so it's pretty late) to continue to get prepared and feel confident that this back to school will be the smoothest yet. 

Hey, a girl can dream right?

This week is very much a catch-all...

Sometimes, I feel like I'm on stage performing to try to keep my students engaged! But there is some truth to that... I don't like learning from boring presenters who aren't taking my "learning style" into account when they are sharing new information. That goes for my students too. I want to have fun with our learning! That is important!

I dug back to some old posts to find some ways I keep students engaged! Here are a few things I do to make our learning fun and for getting everyone involved.
Integrating Games and Game Boards

Throughout the year, I try to turn some of our learning into games. I made many different game boards and put them into plastic sleeves. Students can make the game even more exciting by adding in their own spaces (loose a turn, roll again, etc.) before they play to buy into it even more.

I've used it learn multiplication facts, with task cards, and more! Even though I introduced this last year in January, by June they were still asking to use the game boards!
Strategy Seminars

Last year, I tried to integrate strategy seminars. Seminars are different, as students decide what strategy they will work with as opposed to me assigning it. I of course give them suggestions through my feedback, but it's ultimately up to them. Choice is a huge encourager. And I actually found that many students wanted to visit ALL the seminars to improve their writing. SCORE!

The beauty of these- they are student guided. I provide some resources and structures and then students work together in groups to navigate the strategy to understand it, practice with a common example, and then apply in their own work- it's a great gradual release and as I said, students were so focused during it! It also gives me a chance to float around and check in with all students.

Response Protocols

Do you get stuck sometimes on getting all your students to participate in whole group settings? Me too. I was very inconsistent (and still get into my ruts) and would allow kids to blurt out sometimes.. and then get upset when they did other times. Can't they read my mind??? The same kids would be wanting to share and the same kids would want to try to hide and not get involved. 

We have done a lot of work around being culturally responsive with the help of Dr. Hollie. He has been our keynote speaker for the last 3 years at Back to School Week and we did a book study on this book here. One of the take aways was being very clear on how you want students to respond to your instruction- and to make it responsive. So to help, I created visuals and posted them on my SMARTboard. The visuals are for me- to remind me of all the different ways I can have students respond to my questions and instruction. I can also just point to one and let students know how I want them to respond. 

I saw participation shoot up in our whole group because of this because MANY of the response protocols requires all students to be prepared to share- by either sharing out in unison, using white boards, in small groups, etc. 

Naturally, I had to make a new set to match my new color scheme and I changed out some of the pictures.  

But then my PowerPoint was giving me problems. So I couldn't make it all TpT ready to share with you! Sad day. But fear not! I uploaded what I could to my drive and you can snag these response protocol reminders here! I included 2 different color schemes and 2 different font options so hopefully something works in your room! I also included what each one means (to the best of my explaining abilities... they aren't perfect though- fair warning).

**And if there are any issues with the download- I apologize, but I won't be able to to help until after I get back from vacation so please be patient. :)

Head over to the other fabulous bloggers below and grab some new tricks to keep your students engaged this year!



  1. This is an AMAZING idea. Thanks for sharing the freebie!!!

  2. I first found your blog because of the post about writing seminars. It is brilliant! I want to make Mondays seminar days for my class. I just need to get busy making stations that correspond to our writing curriculum and my student needs. Such a brilliant idea. Students love choice and that is a sure way to increase engagement! Thanks for linking up!
    Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

  3. I love the strategy seminars idea! I am pinning for later! Thank for linking up!
    Fancy Free in Fourth

  4. I love how you used your Michael's frames!!! The response cards are great, downloading now!
    Thanks for linking up!
    Ramona Recommends

  5. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  6. These are all great ideas! I absolutely love your response protocols. Thank you for the freebie. I will definitely incorporate it in my classroom.

    Fit to be Fourth

  7. Thank you for the response protocols...while blurting isn't an issue for me, I find I get in a rut with the type of response we use so this will keep me from using one too long.


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