LIFE Skills teacher have to engage students, just like every other great teacher. Are you doing the following things? If not, start today. Pick one and own it- then add another. You can be a master teacher!
Here are 10 quick tips to keeping students engaged:
- Keep It Real!
Do things that relate to real life and a student’s actual post-secondary goal. How many post-secondary students you know sort things all day long? Incorporate things that are real for independent living and realistic employment opportunities.
- Make it Interesting!
Our students have interests, just like everyone else. Creating materials, activities, and rewards that build on student interests will increase their engagement and also lessen the likelihood for disruptive or destructive behavior. Remember to keep everything age appropriate, but bring their likes to the classroom.
- Say It Different!
Present information in multiple ways… remember the VAK! Present your lessons in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities and then mix it up and think of new ways to present it again. Our students need lots of repetition and presenting it the same way over and over is not enough, so say it differently!
- Give Choices!
Can you imagine if your entire day was decided by someone else? What you wore, ate, did, wore? It would drive me bonkers. Everyone deserves some choice in their day. Be sure you are offering students, even non-verbal or limited responders, some choice. Not sure how? Start with a simple choice board and go from there!
- Mix Up the Groups!
Some of our students are in the program for up to eight years! And for some of them, they are with the same peers all that time. We have got to mix it up- put students together by level, by gender, by interests, by height! Allow them the opportunity to meet and interact with as many different people as possible because that helps to build social ability and tolerance for change.
- Mix Up the Teacher Too!
Always planning your lessons for large groups? You can’t keep that up. Use the staff you have assigned in your room and also use the strengths of the students. Many models are available that work well in LIFE Skills classrooms, like parallel teaching, small groups, breakouts, and 1:1 instruction when needed. Check out this printable guide to Some Approaches to Co-Teaching.
- Everyone Participates!
Never, ever put a student in a group and then don’t have the expectation for them to participate. For many of our students, we will have to create and teach ways to interact, but passively being part of the class is not an option. Make sure everyone is included, everyone is participating, and everyone has some mode of communication!
- Use State Changes!
Ten minutes. 10 Minutes! Most of our students (and staff too) can only concentrate on one topic for about ten minutes before they need a state change. What are some ways to do that? Try any of these, or just have students stand up and get the wiggles out!
- Chunk It Up!
Been talking on and on or repeating something over and over without success? Break up those big ideas (and even small ideas) into the smallest parts to really offer students an opportunity to master and move on.
- Be Excited!
If you are bored listening to yourself talk, then your students are about to pass out… and if you are not willing to be entertaining, animated, and a little bit over the top, then you may be in the wrong field. You have to have some pizzazz to keep your students engaged.
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