What Kids Can Tell Us About Engagement

Just Ask Us: Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement
By Heather Wolpert-Gawron 
(Corwin, 2018 – Learn more)

Reviewed by David Bever

How do you learn best? By seeing, reading, listening, watching, making, examining? All of us learn in different ways and are engaged using different techniques.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron has written a book that needs to be in every teacher’s professional library. Her book is engrossing, motivational, and thought provoking. I would recommend this book for all teachers who want to engage their students with a variety of strategies. I wish that I had had this book when I first became a teacher.

To write this book, she designed a national student survey that was completed by 1500 students in grades 6-12. What was her goal with this survey? To find out from kids what makes for an effective teacher and as a student how they learn best. From her research she discovered that students want to:

  • Work together
  • Have teachers use more visual objects and use technology
  • Know why they are learning
  • Move around the classroom
  • Have choices for assignments
  • Experience their teachers as human
  • Create something from what was learned
  • Participate with new ways to learn
  • Learn by a variety of methods

How important is it for students to be engaged at school?

Engagement creates a joy and enthusiasm for learning. Engagement opens the door for deeper learning. Engagement helps students to learn and will cause teachers to be more excited about teaching.

Helping students to be engaged with their learning is something that all teachers can do. Teachers can create a variety of strategies that can increase learning in the classroom. Throughout this book you will find QR codes that will take you to videos of teachers using engagement strategies in their classrooms.

Wolpert-Gawron has included student quotes throughout the book that speak about student opinions of being engaged. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these to find out what opinions students had related to learning. The quotes will cause you to reflect on your own teaching style.

There is also input from teachers who share practical advice on how engagement concepts can become part of your own classroom. Each chapter contains a menu of strategies and tools that will help you capture imaginations and make content sticky.

How is this book different from other books?

  • Based upon research from a national survey of students in grades 6-12
  • Each topic in this book can be its own book
  • Each strategy is justified by research
  • The strategies that are highlighted can be used immediately
  • Includes a companion website where you can locate downloadables and links to videos
  • Written indirectly by students with their opinions helping to develop the book’s concepts
  • Not just about theory but practical ways to engage students
  • Discussion questions to engage the teacher located at the end of each chapter
  • A menu of engaging strategies for quick reference

It takes work and time to create an engaging lesson. In truth, it’s hard to be engaging. It does not happen immediately. But the outcomes are fantastic as you see students learning through your use of a variety of alluring techniques.

In conclusion…

Let Heather Wolpert-Gawron help you move beyond just teaching content the same way every day. Select a strategy for a chapter or unit that needs a spark. Pick and choose a strategy that you’re comfortable with and believe can enhance your lesson. Share this book with fellow teachers so that they can thrive with their profession.

David Bever is a retired teacher who taught in the middle grades for over 40 years in Lutheran schools in Michigan and Nevada. David enjoys bicycle riding, reading, coloring adult coloring books, raising roses, attending Church and Bible class, and being a grandfather to three adorable granddaughters. He has been married to Peggy for over forty years. They have two grown children named Joshua and Rachel.


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