The pandemic has come with countless challenges for school communities. Disruptions like school openings and closures, shifts between remote, hybrid, international journal and in-person learning, new policies and procedures, and the loss of shared traditions have made things difficult for everyone. There’s little doubt that these starts, stops, and shifts have taken a toll on students’ motivation and engagement in school.

As we regain some sense of normalcy, many teachers report that students are struggling to get engaged in learning. From screen-time habits to social and emotional issues, many students are struggling. And let’s be honest: Student engagement is almost always a big challenge — even under “normal” circumstances!

But teachers should consider both the challenges and opportunities of this situation. On the one hand, the tried-and-true strategies we’ve always used to engage students might not work as they did in the past, and may need a refresh. But on the other hand, we’ve probably learned some new strategies for engaging students during the pandemic that we can adapt to in-person learning. Read on for tips, strategies, and reminders to help bring kids back into the fold.

Tips to help students get engaged with learning:

  1. Acknowledge students’ social and emotional well-being
  2. Regular check-ins with students are essential — especially as pandemic-related stressors continue in one way or another. With so much change happening, students will need some extra time to reflect and process their emotions and state of mind. Fortunately, when it comes to addressing students’ social and emotional well-being, a lot of resources and strategies are available. Here are a few to check out:
  3. Address the impacts of digital life. Even while returning to in-person learning, we’re all more connected to the digital world than ever. Common Sense’s SEL in Digital Life Resource Center has CASEL-aligned classroom activities, conversation starters for families, and professional development resources to help.
  4. Set up structures for check-ins. Whether virtually or in person, you can use individual check-ins with students and families. Personalized outreach like this can help students reflect on their emotional ups and downs, and can go a long way toward helping them come to class ready to engage. Just the act of acknowledging that things may be stressful can help kids feel seen and heard, and make your class a bit more approachable.
  5. Be mindful of students’ needs during times of transition. Common Sense’s article 4 SEL Strategies for the Transition Back to In-Person Learning offers helpful advice on addressing students’ challenges during moments of change.
  6. Weave in SEL throughout the year. SEL shouldn’t be a one-and-done type of activity, or something we address at the start of the school year, only to abandon. Common Sense’s We All Teach SEL series looks at the ways you can incorporate SEL-friendly digital tools into various subjects, and this article from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine offers three ideas for weaving SEL into your curriculum.