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How to Keep your Students Engaged: 10 Tips

Whether you’re a seasoned tutor, or just starting out, something that every tutor is keen to get right is ensuring that your students are, and stay, engaged during your lessons. Keeping students engaged is key to a successful lesson, and will guarantee success as your lessons progress - as students will turn up feeling excited and ready to learn!

Here are our 10 tips on how to keep students of all ages engaged in your lessons.

Student on task and interested in learning

1. Find Out About Your Student’s Interests

Something that is a sure-fire way to have your student engaged is to encourage them to share their interests, and find ways to incorporate this into your lesson plans. In your first lesson together, it might be an idea to spend a little bit of time getting to know them, and ask about their likes and dislikes, their hobbies and the things that they find exciting. Not only does it help the student to see that their tutor is taking an interest in them as a person, but it also helps you as a tutor when planning future lessons.

For example, if your student is a big football fan, is there a way of combining times tables with league tables? Or, if your student is an animal lover, maybe you can ask them to describe their favourite animal to improve their creative writing? However you choose to incorporate their likes and interests into your lesson, your student is bound to enjoy applying the new knowledge from the lesson to something that feels familiar and accessible to them.

2. Begin Each Lesson With a Warm-up Task

If you can get your student engaged in the lesson from the get-go, then it should mean that they’re more likely to remain engaged right up until the end, and a great way of doing this is through a quick warm-up activity.

This can take the shape of a recap quiz going over what you did last lesson, a multiple choice quiz based on what the upcoming lesson is going to be about, or even a game that’s linked thematically to what you’re going to be covering within the lesson. A fun, simple exercise can make all the difference to the student’s engagement, and get the lesson off to a fun and dynamic start.

3. Try to Avoid Lessons Becoming Lecture-like

It might sound obvious, but when a tutor, or anyone, is delivering a large chunk of information all in one go, especially if the lesson requires the teaching of a lot of new information, it can be quite overwhelming, and cause the student to zone out or become distracted. In some instances, it is necessary that a specific topic needs to be delivered all in one go, but a great way to ensure that your student remains tuned in is to break up the topic into sections, and have a follow-up exercise after each one.

For example, after a couple of minutes of talking, you could ask the student for three key takeaways from what you have discussed so far, or ask them to recall any key words, names or phrases that they have picked up on. Not only is this a great way to keep your student engaged with the material you’re covering, but it also shows you early on in the lesson if there is anything that you need to recap or explain in more detail.

4. Use a Variety of Media within the Lesson to Engage your Students

Whether you’re working in person or online, one of the huge benefits of tutoring at a time of so many digital resources is being able to include these within your lesson in order to make your lessons more entertaining and engaging. If you’re creating a PowerPoint presentation, adding in photos and diagrams to support any written text is great for students of all ages, and you may want to include more or less depending on the age of your student(s). Photos can provide a great contextual reference for things like History, Geography or Drama, but even adding in images from popular film and TV can help students who might be visual learners.

You never know, it might be the thing that helps them to remember a key equation for something further down the line! Another great resource is video, which can be a brilliant way to not only break up the lesson, but add an extra element of interest to your lessons. Whether it’s a key scene from a Shakespeare play to help students to actively participate with the text, or watching a Science experiment in action, video is a terrific tool to keep students engaged.

5. Set Aside Time for Breaks

This is particularly relevant for younger learners whose attention spans might be much shorter, but breaks can also be helpful for older students, too, they just have to be incorporated slightly differently. If you’re working with young students, it might be an idea to break your lesson up into 10-15 minute chunks to give them a chance to burn off any excess energy after sitting still, and to actually incorporate breaks into your lesson plan.

If you’re tutoring in person, this is slightly easier to do as you can easily get their attention back to the task at hand when needed, so be flexible with your thinking if this is for an online lesson. Can a break take the form of doing a quick shake, or a short dance? Is there a song you can encourage them to join in with that is reflective of the work you’ve done so far?

With older students, there might be a time halfway through the lesson where you watch a relevant video which can not only keep them engaged with the subject, but also gives them a couple of minutes where they are receiving information from another source in order to consolidate their knowledge.

Student enjoying an engaging lesson

6. Bring Your Own Energy!

One of the most important aspects of tutoring is being able to bring the right amount of energy to a lesson in order to share your enthusiasm for the subject you’re teaching, and make your students equally enthused! It may seem obvious, but it’s vital that you create an environment that is most conducive to learning, and one where there is high energy to keep your students engaged with whatever subject they are studying.

This involves being encouraging towards your student, creating space for levity and humour in the lesson, and finding the best ways to get your message across through a variety of teaching practices, many of which are discussed within this post. Remember, as soon as your energy dips, or you’re uncertain about what you’re teaching, it’s going to be picked up on by your student, so do your best to keep it up right through until the end of the lesson.

7. Create Games and Quizzes

In a similar vein to what has already been mentioned, creating games and quizzes is an excellent way to not only create an element of fun within the lesson, but it’s a great way to test any gaps within the student’s knowledge. Quizzes can take the form of multiple choice, matching the answer to the question, or even creating your own version of a game show (think Who Wants to be a Millionaire!), and you can use as many graphics or sound effects as you think necessary. As long as the learning is at the forefront, there are many ways that you can mix things up and add variety to your lessons. Which brings me on to my next point…

8. Try and Break Out of a Routine

If you have been tutoring a student for a long time, or have been tutoring for a long time in general, it's easy to fall into a pattern of teaching, especially if you have found it to be successful. However, if a student gets used to the way the lesson is structured, it can be easy for them to become distracted or even pre-empt what might be coming next in the lesson. Have a think about whether you tend to follow a set structure in your lesson planning, and see if there is anything you can add in or switch up to change things around. One way you can do this is to…

9. Swap Roles – Get Your Student to Teach You!

Role swapping is a fun and exciting way to change things up within the lesson, and your students will love the chance to play tutor, if only for a short amount of time! Perhaps you could ask them to teach you something from your last lesson together, or even to get them to talk about their favourite thing that they have learnt within the subject so far, and see if they are able to sustain this for 5 or even 10 minutes. The novelty of being the teacher is a great way to keep students engaged, but it’s also another great tool for you to see where there may be any gaps in the student’s knowledge.

And for younger learners:

10. Incorporate Toys, Puppets and Other Interactive Characters

Whether you’re working online or in person, bringing in characters to the lessons for the students to engage with is a lovely way to keep them entertained as well as adding an extra layer of learning. Toys or puppets can help with phonics, spelling or numeracy, and even with EFL, and you can be as creative as you want with how they are used, either to help with the learning itself, or as an incentive to ‘say hello’ to the character if the student is able to get a certain amount of work done. They could even be your lesson mascot to act as an extra support or form of encouragement for your student.

Motivated young students working as a group

We hope you found these tips helpful, and have got some ideas of your own whirring about how you can prepare future lessons!

For more tips for delivering successful lessons, take a look at our previous blog posts here.


Blog Post Crafted by Cicely

Cicely works on our Admin Team, and also tutors extensively.

In 2020, Cicely discovered her love of teaching, and has been tutoring English Literature and Drama ever since, as well as running a drama school audition help service.

Cicely has had her poetry published in anthologies and online, and in her free time is an avid reader. She loves living by the sea, a good podcast, and taking long walks in the countryside.


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