Let’s face it, staying engaged can be hard, and it’s even harder when it comes to your students. We live in a world filled with distractions galore and the constant lure of the next hot thing, so keeping your students engaged can sometimes prove challenging. That’s what we’re here for!
Below, we’ve curated ways to not only keep your students showing up, but also keep them engaged.
We’re sure you’ve heard it time and time again, but it bears repeating: not every student learns the same. Learning how your students learn is just as important as what they learn. There are hands-on learners, visual learners, and auditory learners, so the key is finding a balance that not only honors the traditions of each art but also adapts to their learning style. The most successful teachers use the information they discover and adjust accordingly.
Having control over the mat and your class
Running a tight ship is important. And when clear expectations are established, it sets the stage and the tone for how the students should conduct themselves while in your dojo. Class structure and discipline also go hand-in-hand. If the teacher is frantic and disorganized, it also affects the classroom.
A tip for having control over the mat is to keep things short and timely. Set a kitchen timer for each exercise or each part of the class. When the timer goes off, switch to the next task. Do your best to resist the temptation to break your focus to answer last-minute questions or linger before going into the next activity.
Awards and Incentives
Getting students to continue coming back is the ultimate goal of any school, and features like Attendance Awards offered through Kicksite can be your best friend. With the help of automation, the system automatically rewards students with a bronze, silver, and or gold medal whenever they meet the attendance requirements that you set.
Once they’re awarded that medal, it proudly displays each time they check-in. To sweeten the deal, a nice touch is to also give out treats or stickers as a way to say thanks for their dedication.
Student of the Week
Hard work deserves a reward, and Student(s) of the Week is a nice way to shine a spotlight on a student’s hard work. As Student(s) of the Week, the chosen classmate(s) can have special duties like choosing an activity for all, serve as the teacher’s assistant for the duration of the class, or be in charge of passing out snacks.
Another motivator for students to stick with it is monthly challenges with rewards. Sure, there’s nothing like a healthy competition between students to get fires burning, but it’s what awaits at the finish line that will have adults and kids alike showing up and showing out for your challenges.
For the kiddos, think healthy snacks, extended playtime, leadership roles, catering in food (winner’s choice), or even something completely unrelated to Martial Arts to help them keep their eyes on the prize.
When it comes to adults, tangibles are often the best way to garner engagement. (Who said we couldn’t be bought?) Offerings like free swag and classes, guest speakers, gift cards to favor restaurants, DIY spa kits, or money are excellent ways to get them invested and motivated.
Do you have students who tend to disappear? Why not send them a message to let them know their absence is noticed. Kicksite’s Automated Messages make it a breeze to keep track of those students who may not be coming to class as they should.
When the school-set number of missed attendances is reached, a customizable automated message is sent out to the student with their last attendance date and encourages them to come back and visit or touch base and let you know where they’ve been.
Or if you’re looking for even more of a personal touch, a handwritten note or a card is also deeply appreciated. The time spent writing and sending out a simple thank you or word of encouragement can motivate a student, especially after a tough week or when they’re feeling like giving up.
Nothing feels quite like hearing that you’re doing a good job. In fact, Intervention Central points out the importance of praise that is focused on process-based praise that highlight specific details of a student’s effort (i.e. “it’s obvious from your grade that you worked hard to prepare for this test. Great work!”), versus person-based praise like “you’re really smart.”
“When praise singles out exertion and work-products,” it states, “it can help students to see a direct link between the effort that they invest in a task and improved academic or behavioral performance.” That means when students receive process-based praise, they’re more likely to take risks and accept the challenges that come with martial arts.
Getting to Know Your Students
But perhaps the simplest way of communicating with your students and keeping them engaged is to get to know your students as people, as well as learners.
The Body And Mind Education Radio Network, a resource where educators share what works for them, touched on its importance in its article “The Importance of Getting to Know Your Students.” “It is important for the teachers to get to know their students because the more they get to know each student, the better they can teach them in a way that they will learn.”
Association with the School
A lesser thought of a way to keep your students engaged is school apparel. As students sport your logo outside of school, it sparks others to ask details about your school, like its location, what programs are offered, cost, and most importantly, how they’re liking the school. It’s an awesome opportunity to brag about the school they love so much and dedicate their time to.
Assigning leadership roles to your older students can be an effective way to groom your students for future roles within your business (who knows, they may one day become an instructor).
A student having the opportunity to teach their peers increases engagement because they want to make sure they’re doing it correctly, but it’s an opportunity to bond with their classmates. Plus, it feels pretty good when you overhear a classmate boast about who taught them a cool new move.
Mixing it Up
Changing up the Schedule
It’s easy to get into the same routine, so switching up the normal schedule can be a nice reset for the whole school. Instead of sticking to one set curriculum, try a different focus each week or have rotating stations to keep students engaged and on their toes.
Everyone loves a good game, and it’s a no-brainer that gamification (turning training into a game) can have even the most seasoned student itching to join in. It’s not just adding games to a session. It’s taking training exercises like ball blocking and turning it into a class effort. Because who doesn’t love cheering others on.
Never underestimate the power of play. Obstacle courses are the perfect balance between play and training. Students can channel their inner ninja as they jump, dip, and dodge the stations ahead, but also build endurance.
Blue Wave Martial Arts & Fitness, a school located in St. Louis, Mo., uses obstacle courses not only as a way to warm up before class but also as a way to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle.
Make your obstacle course as playful — after all, it can be used as a reward for an excellent month of class — or as challenging as you please with ramps, agility ladders and dots from Century Martial Arts or vertical running walls, base pillars, and river log balances from Zebra Athletics.
The greatest takeaway is that though these tips and tricks are meant to benefit students, they can also have a positive effect on teachers as well. When students are engaged, it allows teachers to spend more time concentrating on lesson content instead of constantly having to interrupt the class.
One focus, one mind; it’s a team win.