Science of Curiosity

How do you keep students engaged during direct instruction? Here are 11 no/low-prep ideas for making lecture fun!

Fun Ways to Keep Students Engaged During Direct Instruction

How do you keep students engaged during direct instruction? Here are 11 no/low-prep ideas for making lecture fun!

Sometimes, you just have to lecture. Maybe you are low on time, maybe the activity you planned just is not going to work out. Whatever the reason, you must lecture – but that does not mean the lesson has to be boring or one-sided!

Here is a collection of teaching ideas for lecture days that keep students engaged by allowing them to interact with the content, with you, and with each other!

Lecture Bingo

Prep: come up with a set of questions that can be answered in one or two words. Use a free Bingo Card generator to make a game with your questions. This particular Bingo Card generator makes printable AND DIGITAL cards!!

During lecture: pass out the cards and teach in intervals of 10 to 15 minutes. At each break, ask a few questions which have been answered by the lecture up to that point. Allow students to fill in their Bingo board. Winner gets candy, extra credit points, or a chance to read the next Bingo question!

Don’t let the game end with the first winner, keep it going, getting more and more winners until the lecture is over.  Keep winners engaged by letting them win again if they make another row on the Bingo card. At the end of lecture, everyones’ whole board will be (should be!) filled in.

Consider a jeopardy-style bingo board with the question on the student’s sheet, and they are listening for the answer during lecture! Have them write in the answers to claim that Bingo square! (You just turned a traditional notes sheet into a game!)

If your lecture does not have enough questions, make some review questions from previous material to sprinkle in!

Break It Up

Prep: Record 5-10 minute portions of the lecture using Screencastify or similar video maker. Create stations around the room that students move though for each part of the lecture. All students can be watching the same portion of a lecture at the same time. Post a link to each section on the bord, one at a time (so no one jumps ahead!) Use tinyurl.com to make the link easy. 

If the order of the lecture segments is not important, post links at the computers or stations for students to bring up, and then leave up, as they rotate around. 

Either way, moving around the room helps to break up a long lecture. Keep students engaged by giving them something to fill out as they go, like skeleton notes, or questions to answer. This also allows the teacher to circulate, help individual students, answer questions and correct any misunderstandings. 

Stop and Think

After 10 minutes of lecture, stop and have students look over the notes they have taken. Call on a random student to come up with an open ended question, pose the question to another random student. Or have all students answer the question digitally with Padlet or Mentimeter.

Everyone Question

After 10 minutes of lecture, have each student write a question on the front of a note card. Give students 5 minutes to circulate around the room and ask other students their questions. Each person who gets the answer right will sign their name on the back of the note card. 

Consider collecting the cards and using them later for review, or even as questions on the test!

Standing Quiz

This is a fun idea from Make Them Master It! Assign each corner of the room a letter, A-D. After 10 – 15 minutes of lecture, ask students a multiple choice question. To answer, they must move to the corner of the room that correlates with their choice. Once there, call on individual students, or the whole group, to explain why they choose this answer, or why they avoided other answer choices. 

Group Ideas for Lecture Days

Working in groups is a great way to help keep students engaged. It will take a little extra time, but I have found the pay out in time is better than wasting time lecturing to zoned-out kids! Also, having students talk to each other about what they learned is so beneficial for long term retention and understanding.

Form groups of three our four, possibly five. Groups that are larger than four usually leave some students doing nothing while one or two take over.

Boil It Down

After 10-15 minutes of lecture, have student groups summarize new information in 40 words. Groups then swap summaries, and challenge the new group to summarize that summary in 20 words. Share out with the class.

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Team Quiz

At intervals, have student groups come up with 3-4 questions by memory (without looking at their notes). Have teams choose their favorite question and assign it to another team to answer. Once each team has asked, and answered, a question, the lecture can continue. 

Best Summary

At intervals, have each student individually write a short summary of what they learned. In groups, students share their summaries and collectively choose the best one to share with the class. 

Like Piles

At the end of a lecture, have individual students write 5-10 summary statements – each on its own strip of paper. Students then get into groups and put all of their statements into like piles. Piles (categories) can be student decided or teacher decided.

Let Students Do the Work

Why take all the fun of teaching for yourself? Let the students do it! Putting them in charge of the learning and teaching can be a welcome change of pace and help keep students engaged.

Notes Race

This works particularly well for labeling parts of a complicated diagram (parts of the cell, muscles of the body, etc). Students are each given a blank diagram (their notes) and put into teams of 3-5. At the front of the room, facing down, is a copy of the diagram completely filled in – one copy per group. One student for each group comes to the front, and at the word ‘GO’ has a chance to look at the diagram for 30 seconds. They then race back to their group and try to recall as much as they can from memory. The goal is to be the first group with a completed sheet. 

I use this method for students to  fill in a Nitrogen Cycle diagram. It is full of unfamiliar vocabulary that forces students to really concentrate in order to remember. Focusing on the diagram, recalling where words are placed, and having to teach (quickly) their group, helps students to better remember what is going on in the cycle. Plus – it is a lot more fun than a lecture! Once filled in, I take the time to explain what they wrote down.

Read more details about the Notes Race on our sister site, TeachScenceOfCurioisty.com!

Student Teacher

Take a lesson or topic with many parts and give each part to a pair or group of students. Have them do the research, make a presentation, and teach the class. For example, in my Forensics class we learn about six reasons innocent people go to jail. The class breaks up into six groups and each takes one reason. They do research, make a PowerPoint, and present it to the class. I monitor them closely to be sure they are delivering the right information. To save time, or to differentiate for students who need a bit of help, consider:

  • Providing a list of quality web links for them to find information
  • Make a PowerPoint template, title slides with topics or questions that must be completed
  • Give students a detailed rubric, or notes sheet, that must be filled out so that they know exactly what you expect them to teach

I hope you can take a few ideas from this list – but I am sure you have some great ideas too! I would love to hear what you do in your classroom to make lecture days more engaging. Share with us in the comments!

Looking for more ideas to turn boring into fun? Learn about one very simple chrome extension that can turn any website into an interactive graded lesson!

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