If a lesson doesn’t have a student’s attention, it isn’t going to be an effective lesson. Unfortunately, keeping students’ attention in a generation raised on constant social media distractions and easily accessible video games is always a battle.
However, problems caused by technology can often be solved by technology. In other words, in the battle for your student’s attention, you fight fire with fire by bringing technology into the classroom.
There is still a place for old-school, analogue methods of student engagement too. Debates, discussions, and games have stood the test of time for a reason.
We want to help you win the battle for your student’s attention, so that you can be the best teacher possible and your students can learn everything they need. That’s why AhaSlides created this guide to interactive classroom activities to use in 2022!
The Benefits of Interactive Classroom Activities
The research is quite straightforward on this point. Studies using neuroimaging show that brain connections are made with greater ease when students are relaxed and comfortable. Joy and academic outcomes are connected; the dopamine released when students are enjoying themselves activates memory centres of the brain.
When students are having interactive fun, they are more likely to invest in their own learning.
Some teachers resist this idea. Fun and learning are antithetical, they assume. But in actual fact, it is the anxiety associated with strictly regimented learning and test-preparation that really inhibits uptake of new information.
Not every lesson can or should be a barrel of laughs, but teachers can certainly integrate positive and interactive classroom activities into their educational methods to improve outcomes for students.
How to Choose the Right Activity for Your Classroom
Every classroom is different. You want to choose your classroom activities based on:
- the personalities in your classroom (learn more about student personalities here)
Be aware that students are very sensitive to their time being wasted. If they don’t see the point of an activity, they might resist it. That’s why the best two-way activities in the classroom have a practical learning objective as well as a fun element.
Our Suggestions 👇
We have organised our list based on whether you are aiming to teach, test or engage your students. Of course, there is overlap in each category, and all are designed to improve learning outcomes in one way or another.
None of these activities require digital tools, but almost all of them can be improved with the right software. We’ve written a whole article on the Best Digital Tools For The Classroom, which could be a great place to start if you’re looking to upgrade your classroom for the digital age.
If you’re looking for a tool that can handle many of these activities in both in-person AND for remote learning, AhaSlides was designed with teachers in mind. The aim of our free software is to engage students through a wide variety of interactive classroom activities, like polls, games and quizzes and offer an alternative to over-complicated learning management systems.
Want to give it a go? Try it for free!
1. Interactive Activities for Learning
One of the most active interactive classroom activities is role-play, which helps students employ a healthy dose of teamwork, creativity and leadership.
In many classrooms, this is a firm student favourite. Creating a mini play out of a given scenario, and bringing it to life as part of a group, can often be the most exhilarating thing about school.
Naturally, there are quieter students who tend to shy away from role play. No student should be forced into public activities they’re not comfortable with, so try to find smaller or alternative roles for them to do.
Listening is just one form of input. Presentations nowadays are two-way affairs, where presenters can ask questions across their slides and get responses from their audience for everyone to see.
Nowadays, there are plenty of modern classroom response systems that make this super easy.
You may not think a few simple questions in your presentations will make a difference, but letting students put forward their opinions in polls, scale ratings, brainstorms, word clouds and more can do absolute wonders for student engagement.
These presentations can take a little time to set-up, but the good news is that online presentation software such as AhaSlides makes it easier to create fantastic interactive presentations than ever before.
When you want your class to interact more with each other, use jigsaw learning.
Jigsaw learning is a fantastic way to split up the many parts of learning a new topic and assign each part to a different student. It works like this…
- All students are put into groups of 4 or 5, depending on how many parts the topic is split into.
- Each student in those groups receives learning resources for a different topic part.
- Each student goes to another group full of other students who got the same topic part.
- The new group learns their part together, using all the resources given.
- Each student then returns to their original groups and teaches their topic part .
Giving this kind of ownership and responsibility to each student can really see them thrive!
2. Interactive Activities for Testing
The best teachers don’t just deliver the same succession of lessons to every class, every year. They teach, then they observe, measure and adapt. A teacher has to pay attention to what material is sticking and what is bouncing right off their students’ foreheads. Otherwise, how can they properly support when they need to?
The “pop quiz” is a popular classroom cliche for a reason. For one, it is a reminder of what has been learned recently, a recall to recent lessons — and, as we know, the more we recall a memory, the more likely it will stick.
A pop quiz is also fun… well, it is as long as the students can get some of the answers. That is why designing your quizzes to the level of your classroom is important.
For you as a teacher, a quiz is invaluable data, because the results tell you what concepts have sunk in and what needs further elaboration before the end-of-year exams.
Some children, especially young ones who have only been in education for a few years, might feel anxiety as a result of quizzes, because they are comparable to tests. So this activity might be best left for children in Year 7 and up.
Need some help creating a quiz for your classroom from scratch? We’ve got you covered.
Ask students to demonstrate their knowledge of a topic by presenting it to the class. This could take the form of a lecture, a slideshow, or a show-and-tell, depending on the subject and the age of the students.
You should take care when choosing this as a classroom activity, because for some students standing in front of a class and putting their understanding of a topic under the harsh spotlight of their peers is going to be akin to a nightmare. One option to mitigate this anxiety is to allow students to present in groups.
Many of us have memories of student presentations packed with cliche clip art animations or perhaps tedious slides overpacked with text. We may remember these Powerpoint presentations with fondness or not. Either way, it is easier and more fun than ever for students to create slideshows through their internet browser and present it in-person or, if needed, remotely.
3. Interactive Activities for Student Engagement
A student debate is a great way to reinforce information. Students who are looking for a practical reason to learn the material will find the motivation they are looking for, and everyone will get a chance to hear about the topic from a variety of perspectives as listeners. It is also exciting as an event and students will cheer on the side they agree with!
Classroom debates are best for students in the last years of primary school and older.
Participating in a debate can be nerve-wracking for some students, but one nice thing about a classroom debate is that not everybody has to do the speaking. Usually there are three group roles:
- Those supporting the notion
- Those opposing the notion
- Those judging the quality of the arguments presented
You can have more than one group for each of the above roles. For example, instead of having ten students in one huge group supporting the notion, you could have two smaller groups of five or even groups of three and four, and each group will have their own time slot to present arguments.
The debating groups will all research the topic and discuss their arguments. Either one member of the group can do all the speaking, or each member can have their own turn. As you can see, you have a lot of flexibility in how to run a debate depending on the size of the class and how many students are comfortable with a speaking role.
As the teacher, you should decide the following:
- The topic for the debate
- The arrangements of the groups (how many groups, how many students in each, how many speakers in each group, etc.)
- The rules of the debate
- How long each group has to talk
- How the winner is decided (eg. by popular vote of the non-debating group)
💡 If your students want more guidance on how to carry out their role in the debate, we’ve written a great resource on this: How to Debate for Beginners.
Group Discussions (Including Book Clubs and other Groups)
Not every discussion needs to have the competitive aspect of a debate. For a more casual method of engaging students, try the live or virtual book club arrangement.
Whereas the debate activity described above has roles prescribed and rules to determine who speaks when, in a book club students have to show initiative to speak up. Some are not going to want to take this opportunity and will prefer to listen quietly. It’s okay for them to be shy, but as the teacher you should try to give everyone who wants to speak a chance to do so, and even give some encouragement to quiet students.
The subject of the discussion does not have to be a book. That would make sense for an English class, but what about for other classes, such as science? Perhaps you could ask everyone to read a news article related to a recent scientific discovery then open the discussion asking the students what the consequences of this discovery might be.
A great way to get a discussion started is using an interactive response system to “take the temperature” of the class. Did they enjoy the book? What words would they use to describe it? Students can submit their answers anonymously and the aggregate answers can be shown publicly, in a word cloud or bar chart.
💡 Looking for more? We’ve got 12 more student engagement strategies!
Picking a great interactive classroom activity will make things more interesting for your students but also more interesting for you, the teacher!
Whenever you are starting to feel that your teaching routine is falling into a rut, you can break out any of the above ideas in order to shake things up and re-energise your class and yourself!
As you may have already noticed, so many classroom activities are elevated with the right software. Making learning more fun for teachers and students alike is one of the key goals of AhaSlides, our interactive presentation software.
If you’re ready to take your classroom engagement to the next level, click here and find out more about our free and premium plans for education professionals.