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Early Childhood

Keeping Students Engaged

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Amy Efird Amy Efird 1820 Points

Hello, my name is Amy Efird. I’m a senior at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I would love to teach kindergarten and plan on teaching in my hometown of Mount Ida. My question pertains to the engagement of young students, and how we can get these students more focused in the classroom. The term 'herding cattle' is sometimes used for younger kids, and I would like to know some ways to get young kids from chaotic to focused. 

Taisha Noccius18 Taisha Noccius18 2040 Points

Hi, Amy

A way to get students more focused in the classroom is to have engaging and interactive activities. For starters try to incorporate some hands-on activities in the lesson. Students love hands-on activities rather than just learning from the textbook. Another way is a reward system. Tell students if they answer questions correctly, get good grades on quizzes and tests they can get a sticker. They can collect the stickers to receive a bigger prize. This will motivate them to focus because they will need to understand what's going on to answer questions and more. 

Kearstin Hansel Kearstin Hansel 635 Points

Hello! I am a student at Wartburg College, and from all of the different teachers that I have worked with through field experience, I have found that the best way to get students to pay attention is to do lots of hands on learning. Students will learn better when they are included in the teaching so doing things like jigsaw groups could also help keep students focused on what they are to be learning!

Kristin Preast Kristin Preast 1670 Points

First off, I would say use different methods. Find or make up upbeat songs talking about the topic, have the kids explore the topic whether it is going outside to find stuff. Try to also incorporate some hands on because that will keep them busy. Just try to vary the activities so they don't get bored with the same routine or activities. 

Aleeya Cheney Aleeya Cheney 610 Points

Hello Amy! 

I am going to be student teaching next semester and I have learned a couple things in my last year of school. The best way to get students engaged is to find something that interests them and allow them to explore it for themselves before uncovering the truth about that topic. COVID-19 has encouraged all students to not have an attention span and so it can be difficult to gain their entire focus for more than just a minute. Hands-on experiences are a must in early childhood programs and early elementary grades. The more they are up and using their hands, the better! Use a sound gauger called to keep the level of sound at an inside level while having work time. Have creative attention getters that get the student's attention right away. Some call and responses that work pretty well are:

  • waterfall waterfall       sshhhhh!
  • Red Robin!                 yum!
  • We are Farmers!         bum bum bum bum bum bum bum ( in the tune of the State Farm commercial) This works best with 4th-high school
  • Class class class         yes yes yes 
  • Marco                        polo

Therese Lapierre Therese Lapierre 315 Points

Hi Amy!

A few ways to get young students to be more engaged in the classroom could be by implementing inquiry-based learning. Teachers should encourage students to ask questions and explore scientific concepts on their own. Incorporating games, and hands-on activities could also help the students become more engaged. 

Liliana Longoria Liliana Longoria 470 Points

Hello Amy! It's great that you want to teach kindergarden, good for you! As for your question, I understand where your concern comes from, it's a hassle maintaining young students engaged in a lesson because they all mostly tend to wander off in their own world. However, a great way to ensure that they stay focused and engaged in the lesson is to incoporate hands-on activities to help the students learn as they go all while having them engaged.

Ashley Gonzalez Ashley Gonzalez 595 Points

Hello Amy, providing hands-on activities for young children is one method to keep them engaged. Working in small groups or with partners is another method for kids to stay engaged because of the interaction between peers. Finally, I would advise that you may encourage class involvement by just asking questions for them to respond to.

Nathalia Torres Nathalia Torres 370 Points

Hi Amy, I think a great to start is getting to know your students. Every student has their own way of learning, and in order for them to get engaged is knowing what is their learning style. Maybe start some lessons with videos, question they all get to participate in. Have them engage by doing different activities that might include assignments where they get to work in teams and indivially, hand-on activites where they get to explore and learn. Having the students connect with life scenarios. Connect to students and learning their strenghts will help lots. 


Ashley Hayes Ashley Hayes 5000 Points

I had two internships in a pre-k classroom right after distances learning ended. I believe that my mentors did wonders with engagement and keeping the students focused. They taught me that expectations and routines were key in keeping the classroom in order. I still struggled with keeping the students focused while I was teaching my own lessons in their classrooms. I noticed early on that my energy level/ excitment on the topics wasn't as high as my mentors. Once I became more comfortable, I stepped out of my comfort zone which the students responded well to. I sang songs and danced with them during brain breaks. I also got to know their interest and incorporated them in my lessons when I could. 

Olivia Schwiegerath Olivia Schwiegerath 100 Points

Hi Amy,

I currently teach 4th grade students and I would agree that even with age it still feels like 'herding cattle'. 

Something that has helped me is having my lessons and questions pre-planned. Additionally, I set the expectations for behavior beforehand. I like to show an example of what to do and an example of what NOT to do. I also discuss how to appropriately use materials and what happens if students are unable to follow these rules. Usually it is a loss of being able to do a fun hands-on activity. To support engagement while teaching science, I would suggest using hands-on materials as often as possible! Although they are in Kindergarten, they can still complete partner projects. This could help if you are able to strategically make your pairs. I also would recommend utilizing movement whenever possible especially for Kindergarten. For example, when you transition you could have them hop like a bunny or walk like a zombie. These small opportunities for movement increase engagement and use up some of their energy.

Lea Cupo Lea Cupo 210 Points

Hi Amy! I'm a student at Monmouth University and from my experience so far I have learned that when the teacher is focused and engaged, the students will follow. As teachers we must think of our students when we are creating lessons for them. We want to make activities and assignments that they can relate to and find meaning in. If they are interested in what we are teaching, it will help them stay focused. At the beginning of the year we have to get to know our students so we can see what their interests are and what they find meaning in. 

Jessica Brehm Jessica Brehm 220 Points

Hi Amy!

I am a junior studying early childhood. I would also love to teach kindergarten one day. After working in placements for the past few years and learning content in my classes, I also believe it is very important to keep kids focused and engaged. One thing I learned is students stay more engaged when the activities switch often. For example. If kids are assigned to read for 20 minutes they may start losing focus quicker than if assigned to read for only 10. It is important to also switch up the way students are learning. Maybe have them come to the carpet for a group discussion, and then have them do a group activity before working independently. I feel that kids can focus when they have to sit at their desks for a long amount of time without taking breaks. Brain breaks or educational videos are also a great strategy to get kids to get re-focused before starting something new. 

Celeste Martinez Celeste Martinez 950 Points

Hi Amy! First of all congratulations for being in your senior year!! That's amazing! I have taught kindergarten for the past four years and let me tell you....every year is different.  What works for one group may not work for another group, so it's super helpful to have many different ideas in your teacher tool kit.  Definitely the most important thing is setting up the expectations from day one.  It's the most boring part of teaching, but I promise it's so important, because teaching can't happen without the behavior managed.  There is a procedure for everything due to the fact that kinders really are like herding cats.  I love cats, so I use that term haha You can create procedures for a number of things.  How should the students enter the classroom, what do the students do as soon as they enter, what do they keep at their desks, how do they get to the carpet, how do they line up, how do they ask for help or to go to the bathroom, etc.  And all of those things may happen within the first hour of your day.  Having visuals around in the classroom is extremely helpful for the younger students.  Expectations are something I go over on a daily basis.  Procedures I go over if I get a new student or after a break in case students forgot.  Having incentives to work toward is always great to maintain the expectations for the students.  I've done different things each year.  My first students worked toward stickers.  My second group worked for snacks. My third group worked for prizes.  My fourth group...I'm still figuring out what works best for them. It's still early, but I have a point system in place and they like getting points, but I think I need to change my prize menu to cater to them better. I hope this was helpful in some aspects. I wish you all the best of luck!

Joy Smith Joy Smith 605 Points

Hello Amy,

I am a student at Wartburg college. I would also love to teach Kindergarten. Student engagement is something that I have struggled with. What I have learned from working at a daycare and my field experiences is to keep kids moving with short, engaging activities. If you keep your lesson short and to the point, this will help students stay engaged. Planning your lesson around the time of day can also be helpful. If your students are more engaged in the morning, plan your harder concepts in the morning, and vice versa. This allows for student to learn before they lose their focus.


Ella Brase Ella Brase 630 Points

Hi Amy, 

I’m a third-year student at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. I am also looking into teaching younger students, so I understand how difficult it is to keep them focused and entertained. From what I’ve experienced and observed it seems as though early childhood classrooms run the smoothest when students feel cared for and valued by their teachers. Another piece of this is finding what each student is interested in and capitalizing on opportunities to incorporate those topics into lessons or activities. As teachers, I think it’s also extremely important to be aware of where students are developmentally and to know how long their attention spans will be, and to intentionally plan our lesson to fit into that attention span. When lessons go on for too long it is really easy to lose the student's interest and that is when chaos often times occurs. I hope this was helpful and I wish you all the best. 


Ella Brase



Caroline Meroski Caroline Meroski 365 Points

I really like these tips and they will be very beneficial for me as a future teacher. 

Nikita Hatley Nikita Hatley 4210 Points

Hi my name is Nikita Hatley and I'm a student at Henderson State University and I'm an Elementary Education major and I have a question about what kind of tips and activities can I use to get my students more envol with learning and subjects.

Taylar Copen Taylar Copen 480 Points

Hi! I think some of the best advice I have received while being a student at Wright State University is that in order to keep student's engaged, you have to find activities that interest them. Learning the likes/ dislikes of your student's plays a vital role in their attenion span when it comes to class activities. I always find that students love interactive games for subjects. Using Kahoot, an interactive online game, has enabled me to teach my students important concepts while also allowing the children to have fun and compete with their peers in this interactive game. I have used Kahoot for several ELA and Math projects. I think it is also important to learn what your students struggle with and turn that struggle into something that they want to learn more about through something interactive. The more hands-on/ interactive the material, the more likely the studetnts will stay engaged and willing to learn. I hope this helped! 

Mallory Frangiosa Mallory Frangiosa 360 Points

Something that I have personally found super helpful in keeping my students engaged is Classroom Dojo. It is a way that students can compete for classroom points and they love it! Parents and other teachers can see their students getting points for things like 'On Task' and 'Engaged'. Once other students see points being earned from friends, they catch on and tend to engage for class points. We have also added an aspect of using the points in a class 'store', the more points you get you can earn candy and other small prizes from the store once a quarter. 


Sydney Miller Sydney Miller 220 Points

Keeping students engaged is one of the hardest parts of any teachers day when they are constantly trying to bring students back together or asking students to stay on task when they might be working on something else. I am placed in a third grade classroom and we use the PBIS behavioral system. The students work hard to earn points each day and are able to use their points to purchase items and prizes from the teachers and school. If my ct or myself notices a student is not on task or the class is chatty, we will single out those who are doing what is asked to thank them for being on task or engaging in what is being taught to give them points. This allows those students who are not engaging the opportunity to join the rest of the classes' conversation and a second chance to earn points for the day.

Maddie Heffner Maddie Heffner 320 Points

Knowing what your students like and dislike is a very important thing to know to be able to keep your students engaged in class. Have something that relates to students as well. I believe that getting students out of their seats every day for some amount of time is always good too. It is important to get students moving and to clear their minds before starting an activity.

Hi Amy,

You've received lots of great advice about keeping young ones engaged in learning. To me, you must start by believing that young learners are capable of incredible thinking. Given the opportunity to share their ideas, build structures, problem-solve, and use critical thinking skills, young learners are ready to take on challenges. It is essential to allow young learners to guide their learning by figuring things out and explaining them to others. Provide time, each day, for students to make sense of something - whether it's a puzzle, a discrepant event, or a mystery. Encourage them to ask questions (what do you notice and what do you wonder) and take the next steps to figure things out. Inspire wonder in the classroom—support communication, creativity, and collaboration. Your class will come alive! Kindergarteners are exceptional scientists and creative engineers - promote discovery.



Lisa Rodgers Lisa Rodgers 20 Points

I think that keeping students engaged is indeed complicated. Each student is different, with different preferences and characters. And choosing something that everyone will like is hard. But from my experience, I can say it's possible. Maybe, not on the first try, but possible. I'm actually working on my dissertation, and there, I'll always write about engaging students into the educational process. It'll be both theoretical and practical info. Thank the help of, the huge theoretical part is ready, and now I have enough time to work on the practical part. There I'll describe my experience and also the experience of teachers/professors of students of different ages. I think that the information I'll get will be very interesting because each has its own approach and study methods.

Elise Dickerson Elise Dickerson 1078 Points

I feel like science is naturally engaging! Begin with a phenomena or something to 'hook' their attention. My first graders have so many questions and want to get in there and try themselves :) 

Jennifer Feagin Jennifer Feagin 140 Points


I taught kindergarten for 10 years. Teaching science was one of my favorites. My advice for keeping early childhood education students engaged is: make learning fun, include hands on activities, music and art, editable activites, and projects that they could comeplete at home or in the classroom. 

Haley Jacobsen Haley Jacobsen 820 Points

Hello all! I am a student at Wartburg College, and I hope to teach in an early childhood classroom. From my field experiences, work at daycares, and classes, I have learned that not only are students better able to pay attention, but they also gain a deeper understanding of their learning when they are actively engaged and participating in their learning. Discovery learning works really well with young children. For example, you can show students pictures or items and ask them what they see, what they could do with them, and so much more. Let them explore, capture their attention, and then explain. Another idea for when reading a read-aloud, depending on the age, you could do a story bingo, a coloring page related to the story, or ask the students to draw the different emotions the main character feels throughout the reading. These all require active listening to the story in fun yet engaging ways. When counting or teaching phonics you can do full-body actions. Students will also be more engaged and excited if you show excitement about it (but still under control). 

Alexandra Gamero Alexandra Gamero 465 Points

Hello! I have found through my studies and my field experience that hands-on learning is best at keeping students engaged. A majority of students have a hard time staying on task when just reading from a textbook or listening to a teacher's lecture. This is especially true with younger students. I have also found that students really enjoy reward systems. Although these recently have been frowned upon by many, I have found in my field experience that student's truly enjoy it and it keeps them engaged and makes them want to do the work.

Yuliana Garza Yuliana Garza 840 Points

Keeping students engaged in a early childhood class could be a struggle, but i think having fun hand on activies could be a great way of keeping them engaged. 

Laura Jones Laura 20 Points

The captivating puzzles in Nerdle make for a very enjoyable reading experience. Data researcher Richard Mann, who hails from the United Kingdom, is the man behind the creation of this game. Because his daughter, who is 14 years old, requested a math-related Wordle, he created one for her. Unpredictably, ever since it was first presented, a great number of people from all over the world have developed an interest in it.

Lauren Cramer Lauren Cramer 2025 Points

I agree with so many posts on here. Keeping it fun, interactive and hands-on is going to be the key. 

SarahGrace Hanrahan SarahGrace Hanrahan 225 Points

Hey! I am a student at Francis Marion University in South Carolina. I have found that having hands-on activities really does help grasp the attention of students! Growing up, I was never really one for science. I typically always associated science as being a boring subject but that was until my teachers started using hands-on activities, because we were able to do something other then just basic writing it always made us stay on task and want to interact more! I also think as a teacher the energy towards the subject is key too!

Deborah Lewis Deborah 10 Points

Hello, Amy! It's wonderful to hear about your passion for teaching kindergarten and your desire to make a positive impact on your students in Mount Ida. Engaging and focusing young students can be a rewarding challenge. Here are some strategies to help you transition from chaos to focus in a kindergarten classroom:

Establish Clear Routines: Children thrive on routines. Create a daily schedule that includes specific times for various activities like circle time, reading, art, and play. Be consistent with your routines so that students know what to expect each day.

Use Visual Aids: Visual cues, such as a visual schedule or a behavior chart, can help young children understand and anticipate what will happen next. These aids make transitions smoother and reduce anxiety.

Active Learning: Incorporate hands-on, interactive activities into your lessons. Young children learn best through play and exploration. For example, use building blocks to teach math concepts or engage in nature walks for science lessons.

Small Group Activities: Break the class into smaller groups for certain activities. This reduces the noise level and allows for more focused attention. You can rotate groups to ensure everyone gets a chance to work together.

Use Music and Movement: Incorporate songs, dances, and movement into your lessons. These activities can help release excess energy and improve concentration. For example, use songs with hand movements to teach the alphabet or counting.

Clear Instructions: Be concise and clear when giving instructions. Use simple language and provide visual cues if necessary. Ensure that all students understand what is expected of them.

Positive Reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques like praise, stickers, or small rewards to encourage good behavior and participation. Celebrate small achievements to keep motivation high.

Transitions: Be mindful of transitions between activities. Use a timer or a signal to indicate when it's time to move on to the next task. Giving children a warning and a clear signal helps them prepare for the change.

Individualized Support: Recognize that every child is snake 3D. Some may need extra support or have unique learning styles. Be flexible and adaptable to meet individual needs.

Parent-Teacher Communication: Maintain open communication with parents to discuss any challenges or successes in the classroom. Parents can provide valuable insights and support in helping their children stay focused.

Professional Development: Consider attending workshops or courses on early childhood education. Learning about the latest teaching techniques and child development theories can help you better engage your students.

Patience and Empathy: Understand that young children are still developing their self-control and attention spans. Be patient and show empathy when they struggle to focus. Encourage self-regulation skills.

Riley Kammeyer Riley Kammeyer 978 Points

Hi Amy, 

I am a student at Wartburg College and I’ll be student teaching next semester. I am also interested in teaching younger students like kindergarten or 1st grade. I have worked at a local early-learning center in the preschool room for three years now. I have learned from the teacher that doing short but informative and fun lessons work really well. Students at that age have very short attention spans. Another important part of this is doing activities or lessons that your students are engaged in. Given the grade level, it’s important to understand where students are at their developmental stage meaning we should know they don’t have very long attention spans and we need to make do with time we have for lesson time. With early learners and higher ed learners, when any lesson is too long or boring, that’s when we disconnect. Hands-on material is also helpful in allowing for more engagement. I hope this helps!

Tarah Wehde Tarah Wehde 1150 Points

Hi Amy, 

I am a student at Wartburg College and I have been interested in teaching at the younger level as well. I have had the opportunity to be in a kindergarten classroom for a week and the main thing I picked up was to keep them moving. When their teacher had stuff that involved them getting out of their seat and working together on things it made them more engaged and wanting to learn. Making sure that you are giving them activities that they are going to enjoy and that just comes with knowing your students well. Once you build that relationship with them you are going to start to notice what they do or do not enjoy. They are also going to repsect you by doing this as well which is going to get them more engaged. Best of luck!

Jacqueline Hunter Jacqueline Hunter 100 Points

Lots of great ideas shared here... thank you! I'm curretly working as a para in a kindegargten class and I see everyday how hard it is to get them to focus. Our science segment is at the end of the day (right after snack) and you can tell thier little brains are about done for the day! They do seem to love the hands on activities, but they are still a little 'squirrely' we fortunatley have four adults in the room at that time, which helps a lot. 

Kristine Rowland Kristine Rowland 2290 Points

Hi, I agree with all the folks on here saying 'hands-on activities' are the way to go. In teaching Kindergarten, most science activities are hands-on. For example: bringing in rocks, pebbles, clay, and soil and letting them touch and feel. OR bringing in rocks and letting them sort them in various ways. I think mixing it up also helps. For example: using songs, poems, video clips, read-aloud texts, etc.  We use PBIS points to motivate our students. Giving them points to participate or answer questions is a good motivator. Finally, there are more and more places offering virtual field- trips. You might want to check these out. 

Kailyn Musella Kailyn Musella 505 Points

Hello! I am also a pre-service teacher studying in NJ; however, I have had plenty of opportunities to work with children. After reading a majority of the previous posts, I would also agree that hands-on activities are definitely the way to go. I have also found that it is essential to incorporate a topic or character from a TV show that the students are interested in to help keep them engaged. This is because the more interested the students are in what they are learning the more desire they would have to want to complete the tasks or pay attention. Incorporating student's interests, also makes the students feel that you truly care about them, thus adding more desire for them to learn. 

Hope this helps!!  

Ava George Ava George 140 Points

Hello Amy,

I am a student at Monmouth University, and from my experience student teaching, I have found that encouraging participation and feedback is a good way to keep students engaged. When you are incorporating the students into the lesson, it might help to decrease student's checking out mentally and increase participation and focus. You can do this by simply asking students to raise their hand if they agree with something, or give a thumbs down if they disagree with something, or asking them to write down what they think the answer is instead of keeping it in their head and raising their hand, etc. To sum up, if we come up with fun ways to keep the students engaged and actively listening and participating, it will keep them more engaged.

Catherine Forsyth Catherine Forsyth 260 Points

Hi Amy, 

I am a student at Monmouth University, and from my experience in the classroom from observation hours, I have found that having different and active ways to regroup has kept students more engaged. In past classrooms I have observed, teachers use 'brain breaks' as a way for students to recollect themselves for the second half of the lesson or class. I have seen teachers use short dance videos or calming music with visuals as brain breaks for students to calm down and refocus for the rest of plans for the day. 

Matthew Blaker Matthew Blaker 85 Points

HI my name is Matthew Blaker. I currently am a student teacher in kindergarden. The students love science however after a around 10 minutes of experimenting the students quickly lose interest in the experiment and start to goof off and do other unproductive things. How can I keep student interest during the whole lesson? Thanks


Matthew Blaker Matthew Blaker 85 Points

HI my name is Matthew Blaker. I currently am a student teacher in kindergarden. The students love science however after a around 10 minutes of experimenting the students quickly lose interest in the experiment and start to goof off and do other unproductive things. How can I keep student interest during the whole lesson? Thanks


Sidney Thomas Sidney Thomas 270 Points

Hello Amy,

It's great that you're enthusiastic about teaching and making a difference in your students' academic successes and experiences. Engaging young students can be a challenge. Here are some classroom strategies I have thought of and used in my student teaching than can remove the chaos from the class. Create a consistent daily routine, children succeed on predictability, and having a structured schedule can help them feel secure. Include a variety of activities to keep them interested. Incorporate interactive and hands-on activities into your lessons. For young children, learning through play can be more impactful than a worksheet. To make lessons more engaging, incorporate games, group activities, and educational toys. Give simple and straightforward instructions. Tasks should be broken down into smaller steps, and visual aids such as charts or pictures should be used to help convey information. This can help students stay on track by reducing confusion.  Use music during transition time. Children respond well to songs and it can aid in creating a smoother transition as they will be more focused on the music than talking and being distracted. Implement a positive reinforcement system. Recognize and reward positive behavior, and use a reward system to motivate students. This can help to create a positive classroom environment and encourage concentration. Remember that each child is unique, so it may take some time to figure out which strategies work best for your particular group. 

Best of luck in your teaching journey!

Riley Jordan Riley Jordan 240 Points

Hi Amy!

I also believe it is crucial to keep students engaged in class. I believe that the key to doing this is creating activities that the students are interested in. Young students tend to fixate on a certain interest so basing lessons around this will keep the students excited! I also recommend hands-on activities. When I was a student in grade school, I personally loved hands-on activities and got the most out of them. From my experience with teaching, I see that this remains true. Students love hands-on activities and benefit significantly from them. Textbook work quickly becomes boring and not as beneficial. Lastly, I recommend a reward system. Setting expectations that you would like to see in the students will motivate them to demonstrate this good behavior. If this behavior is demonstrated I like to hand out stickers that eventually lead to a bigger prize. This helps the students to stay motivated and on task. 

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