Ten Ways To Engage Disengaged Students 

 1 February 2022

By  Karen Cruise

A disengaged child can create a domino effect in the classroom.

If one pupil is bored or unmotivated, it can quickly have a knock-on effect on other students.

A study into Year 9 students found that 23% of this age range feel disengaged from school but not from education, while 12% feel disengaged from education.

This can be a huge risk factor as those who become disengaged can drop out of education, face exclusion or struggle to catch up.

It is key to re-engage students as quickly as possible to prevent catching up with challenges later in their education.

So, how can you help children to re-engage with their learning?

Here are ten top tips that can help at home and in the classroom:

1. What’s In It For Me?

Feeling a connection to the task and that it’s relevant to their life is important for engagement and interest.

Some teachers will adopt the WALT (What Are We Learning Today?) technique, which may work, but it often works best for students to decide for themselves how it is relevant to their life (whether that’s right now or in the future).

Incorporating students interest areas can be helpful to boost engagement.

At home, a discussion about the lesson and where they can apply what they’ve learnt can be an excellent way for kids to connect the dots between school and life.

2. What’s The Hook?

Whether it’s a YouTube video, game or story, adding relevance to what they feel disengaged with can increase their interest and participation.

Going beyond the lesson/subject and focusing on the personal interest and how they can relate can help children see things differently.

3. Is It An Achievable Challenge?

Many students can become disengaged when the work is too easy or the expectations are too low or too high.

Creating a challenge that doesn’t feel too far out of reach can motivate them to stay engaged.

4. Build in Reflection

Whether positive or negative outcomes, it can really help children reflect on their actions and effort.

Questions that can help:

  • How do you feel about your approach to the task?
  • Are you proud of your learning? How proud are you of your learning?
  • If you’re not proud, what do you think the reason is?
  • What enabled you to achieve what you did today?
  • What challenged you today?

5. Provide Feedback

Feedback can be incredibly empowering to children as long as it is meaningful to them.

This means making sure feedback is timely, concise and easy to understand.

Constructive feedback that outlines actions that the child can take to improve their learning while also celebrating their successes so far can be the most effective.

6. Support Their Plan

From providing feedback, it can be useful to have a conversation with the child to discuss how they want to put that feedback into action.

Creating action steps can build stepping stones from where they are to where they want to be.

Parents and teachers can offer support with questions such as; ‘how can I help you achieve this?’.

For example, they might need help with accountability, time management, preventing distractions or setting a homework schedule.

7. Build Relationships

A common reason for disengagement is not feeling safe in the classroom.

This may mean they haven’t built a connection with their peers or struggle to connect with their teacher.

Building trust and connection through group work, class discussions and personal interaction can help to increase safety.

It can also help build relationships between the parent, child, and teacher to create a collaborative approach.

8. Wellbeing Breaks

Taking time out to connect to their health and wellbeing can be a great way to build engagement.

It could be that disengagement is caused by external activities.

Taking quiet time to doodle, switch off, and check in with how they’re feeling can be a great way to improve wellbeing, relieve anxiety and enhance engagement too.

9. Ask For Help

If a child is coasting or only doing the bare minimum to get by, then recognising their skills and ability by asking for their help builds trust.

Students will also feel recognised and important that they are needed; they may feel like they are adding value to a task or have something to offer in the subject.

10. Create Second Chances

Failing a test, getting punished for missing a homework deadline or any chance where a child loses motivation or gives up can be a catalyst for disengagement.

Creating second chances and building a positive message around resilience and trying again can help beat disengagement before it takes hold.

If you need help to support your child or students in engaging with their learning, I offer individual coaching to young people to help identify the causes of disengagement and create the roadmap to engaging again with their learning through motivational strategies.

To find out more, please book your free consultation here.

Karen Cruise - The Young People's Life Coach

Karen isn’t only an experienced, accredited coach, she’s also a hard-working mum with many years of employment in the corporate world, the last 10 at a very senior level.

She’s been described as dynamic, intuitive, unstoppable when it comes to helping young people live their best lives.

You’d be hard-pressed to find to a CEO more committed to helping your child succeed.

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