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SEL Series – Encouraging Engagement

Practical Advice on Encouraging Student Engagement

“Miss T, I know we won’t put coconut milk in the soup?” One of my students slyly remarked as I read the recipe for the Chicken Tai soup, we were preparing to create in our Teen Chef Class. By now, I was very used to the students’ resistance to healthier food options. Instead of joining them in their doubt, I remember answering by stating,’ Watch, you’re all going to love this soup!

 I turned on the music, handed them their cutting boards and knives and let them go! I walked around, instructed, and supported them, but I gave them space and opportunity to learn, explore, and most importantly have fun.

In my opinion, it wasn’t anything I said that changed their outlook on the experience; I noticed that as soon as they were given the freedom to chop, dice and create- their levels of engagement increased.  I believe the combination of engagement, autonomy, and empowerment helped them become open to trying something different.

Here are a few essential tips to promote engagement:

1. Encouraging open-mindedness to fresh experiences
2. Avoid judgmental statements
3. Respond to children’s’ thoughts
4. Recognizes children’s’ attempts
5. Show empathy and provide recognition of children’s feelings
6. Demonstrate active listening with children

The point of the story is: give children the freedom and support to learn and explore under our guidance. 

As teachers, we need to create a collective effort to engage students in their education; they will be better prepared to stay focused, maintain positive behavior, and understand and maintain engagement.


Tiana Brown is the Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers


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