Have Students Who Never Seem Interested in Lessons? Here's How to Engage Them


How do you engage students who never seem interested? This age-old question has been pondered by many educators and administrators over the years, and guess what? We finally have the answer. Keep reading to learn how to engage students who always seemed to be checked out.

Confession: My Students Are Always Disengaged

We've all been there. You have this fantastic lesson planned. You've collected all of your materials and printed handouts. You are ready.

Then, the lesson starts. Everything is going fine - until you notice that some of your students are beginning to tune you out and disengage. While it can feel disheartening when students don't show interest, don't lose hope. Here's how to engage disinterested students.

classroom lesson

How to Engage Students Who Need More Attention

Flip the classroom and flip the script. There are many reasons why students may be disinterested in their lessons; they include a lack of understanding and a need for a more hands-on instructional approach. If you find that these reasons are issues for your students, the flipped classroom model may be what you need.

lost student

In a flipped classroom, students watch videos and participate in guided online coursework at home; homework and application activities are done in school. That's why a flipped classroom is especially impactful on students who do not have someone at home to help them with homework.

This method will engage your students at a different level, as it will allow you to work with students more closely and be there to help them work through problems. You can also use that time to incorporate peer-to-peer learning and teamwork as students move through assignments.

How to Engage Students Who Can't See the Bigger Picture

Everyone loves to win, and incorporating a positive learning incentive may be the missing piece to your puzzle. If you have younger students, it may be challenging for them to see the practicality of education. Common complaints may include, ''Why do I have to learn this?'' ''When will I use this in the real world?'' and ''Why should we care about (insert important historical fact) anyway?''

positive reinforcement

In this case, implementing a positive reinforcement system will help you answer the seemingly never-ending flood of ''why'' questions. But don't opt for just any reward system. Instead of using stars or happy faces to indicate approval and eligibility for an award, structure the reward system like a board game, such as Life or Monopoly. Provide students with fake money or assets and deduct and add them as you record students' achievements.

In the end, the ''wealth'' students accumulate will help them understand how the actions they take in the classroom will impact them in life and in their careers. Consider asking for gift cards or other donations from businesses to give to those student(s) who have accumulated the most ''wealth.''

How to Engage Students Who Are Always Bored

The truth is, some students are just bored. It happens. Students sit at a desk for a substantial amount of time during the school day, listening to lectures with scheduled activities sprinkled throughout the lesson. If your students are dozing off or staring at you with glazed-over eyes, then it's time to change the way your students think about learning.

disinterested student

The key is to keep them on their toes. Change it up! Literally. Change your classroom decor as you move through the seasons and lessons. Incorporate more classroom visuals and technology. Bring in food or music when discussing different cultures or take a field trip to a local museum exhibit.

Sometimes little humans - like big humans - need a change in scenery and rhythm. By regularly changing up the classroom environment and instructional approaches, you'll keep your students interested, and they'll have no choice but to be engaged and on the edge of their seats. This may require in a little more preparation, but it'll be worth it to see your students actively participate in a lesson.

There you have it, three creative and fun ways to engage habitually disinterested students. Want to learn more? Visit to discover additional techniques and resources.

By Whitney Stovall
December 2019
teachers student engagement

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