Engaging Disengaged Students in Regular, Afterschool, and Summer School Programs

During the past two years, education and teaching practices have changed and adapted. In turn, methods to engaging disengaged students are more challenging with disrupted learning environments. In this post, we’ll explore different learning resources to keep your students engaged and challenged, especially in regular, afterschool, and summer school programs.

After reading this post, you’ll have tangible methods and resources to cultivate a fun, interactive learning environment with your students.

Why do afterschool and summer school programs have low student engagement?

Afterschool and summer school programs have the potential to provide positive academic development, especially for students struggling to maintain their grades. Yet, these programs also face a wide range of challenges, despite their numerous benefits. From tired teachers, to negative connotations among students’ peers, afterschool programs experience many issues.

However, on top of these challenges, they also struggle with engaging disengaged students. At the end of the day, children are tired. And, after a long school year, they would rather interact with their peers than extend their learning during the summer months.

How can I tell if my students are disengaged?

The most notable sign of disengagement in the classroom is restlessness. This could include constant shifting in their seats and fidgeting, avoiding eye contact with their teacher, and distracting or chatting with our students during instructional periods.

Lack of engagement is also evident in students who refuse to participate. They may neglect to answer questions. In group work, they may act withdrawn and quiet, preferring to watch while they rely on their peers to support the activity. 

In addition, if a disengaged student is called upon, they may shrug off their answer, agreeing with another student’s opinion or refusing to offer a thoughtful response.

If you notice your students are disengaged, we’ve provided a helpful list of resources to make learning fun for your students and to increase the level of engagement in your regular, afterschool, and summer school program.

Engaging Disengaged Students with Math Games

Engaged students are always easier to manage, especially with math. Interactive math games give students the opportunity to learn and participate while also providing a fun environment.

Box Cars and One Eyed Jacks offers math games for Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 9. Our games are proven to increase the volume of practice, helping both teachers and students fill the learning gaps.

One of our past customers, a summer camp coordinator in Phoenix, had this to say about our math games: This was an amazing hands-on learning experience for the students, high school volunteers and for the teachers as well. Students K – 5 spread out daily in the cafeteria learning and playing new math games every day!  Students loved the dice trays, card, and they absolutely loved using the dice shakers as they danced around doing the mamba creating large numbers to say and compare!  Students still talk about and remember the games they learned and played during math camp.”

Let’s have a look at a couple different math kits:

01. The Deluxe Elementary Kit

This Deluxe Upper Elementary Math Kit contains all of our best selling 3rd – 6th Grade resources and is meant to be shared between classrooms. It is also perfect for upper elementary afterschool programs. 

To take a closer look at this kit, click on this link.
If you’d like to purchase this kit for your district, please contact us. We ship to Canada and the US daily.

02. The Deluxe Primary Kit

This Deluxe Primary Math Kit contains all of our best selling Pre-K – 3rd Grade resources and is meant to be shared between classrooms. It is also perfect for primary afterschool programs.

To take a closer look at this kit, click on this link.
If you’d like to purchase this kit for your district, please contact us.

Engaging Disengaged Students with Literacy Games

Literacy games and manipulatives are a great way to facilitate fun, engaging learning. At Box Cars, our games are developed by teachers who have years of experience. The games and activities are designed to challenge, not frustrate students, and ideas for differentiating learning are provided throughout the resources.

When students are engaged, they not only solidify their learning, but they maintain focus. Teachers receive more productive participation, while also increasing the quantity and duration of student practice.

 Let’s have a look at some of our most popular literacy games for afterschool programs:

01. Deluxe Literacy Kit

This deluxe literacy kit contains all of our literacy resources and necessary manipulatives – literacy dice, word decks, and letter tiles to teach your whole classroom. Perfect for small groups and centers as well. Helps engage disengaged students.

If you’re interested in taking a closer look at this literacy game, click this link.
If you’d like to purchase a set for your afterschool or summer school program, contact us.

02. Deluxe Literacy Custom Student Set

Individualized student set contains the following: DC43L X 1 lower case alphabet die DC44 X 2 6-sided vowel dice DC45 X 1 5 W’s question die MN32 X 1 slab lowercase letter tiles (60 total) CD03 X 1 deck of Missing Vowel Cards CD04 X 1 deck of Missing Consonant Cards

To take a closer look at this literacy game, click on this link.
To learn more about purchasing a set for your afterschool program, contact us.

Aligning with Your Students’ Interests to Improve Classroom Engagement

Interactive games are a great way to align with your students’ interests and facilitate learning. They prioritize learning, while also providing fun. And the ideal solution to engaging a disengaged student is to find an activity that will hold their interest.

There are a few other ways to increase engagement. Let’s take a quick look:

01. Get your students moving

Children have energy, and spending long periods of time sitting and listening to lessons can impact their focus and ability to engage. 

Movement can include breaking into groups and playing interactive learning games. It can also include using a fitness dice to establish a quick and safe exercise your students can complete before moving on with their studies.

Get creative and look for ways to incorporate movement into learning activities. This will help your students remove their pent up energy, while also helping them focus when it’s time to return to class work.

Our Math Shakers and Math movement breaks allow students to move, then get right back to doing the math!

Check our some of our videos on Youtube and see the shakers in action!

Here are some Box Cars resources to get your students moving:

Primary Math Shakers Deluxe

This best selling kit comes with the Primary Math Shakers resource, shakers and the dice to fill them. Easy to integrate into your Pre-Kindergarten – 3rd Grade whole class, centers and small group instruction, as well as after school programs.

To purchase the kit, click here.

Click HERE to check out the Table of Contents and to access a few free sample games and reproducible sheets!

Math Shakers Grade 4-8 Deluxe Kit

This best selling kit comes with the Grade 4 – 8 Math Shakers resource, shakers and the dice to fill them. Easy to integrate into your 4th- 8th grade whole class, centers, and small group instruction, as well as after school programs. 

To purchase the kit, click here.

Click HERE to check out the Table of Contents and to access a few free sample games and reproducible sheets!

02. Ask more questions

By posing questions in your classroom, you give your students the opportunity to share their opinions. 

For example, if one student volunteers a response, try calling on a disengaged student with the lead-in, “what did you think of [first student’s] answer?” 

By encouraging classroom discussion, students must actively listen to their classmates’ answers. And the more listening that occurs in your classroom, the higher likelihood engagement will also increase. This practice will also align more with your student’s interests, since it relies on peer interaction and deeper discussion, rather than independent work. 

All of the Box Cars resources contain math journal questions with each game. They also include math talk extensions to help you with questioning and discussions in your classroom as students work with the games.

03. Create a safe space where opinions are encouraged

If a student is struggling with confidence, it can impact their participation. If they believe their opinions will be judged, they may choose to remain silent. By creating a space that values and encourages self expression, you’ll give shy students the platform to engage more. 

This also means monitoring student interactions in group activities and ensuring these values are known and respected.

When you take an interest in ensuring a productive and safe environment for your students, they’ll have the courage to speak their opinions.

Engaging a disengaged student in the classroom

Where can I find funding to purchase learning resources for engaging my disengaged students?

For programs in the United States, there are several funding options available. Because of Covid-19, many students are behind in the CORE subject areas, such as math. There are federal grants to help alleviate the set-backs in student learning caused by the pandemic. 

Let’s take a look at the three pockets of funding mainly being used by districts across the United States:

01. CARES ACT – stands for The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Districts can use this funding for any activity under the federal laws of education, including addressing learning loss through new resources and training staff.

02. ESSER – stands for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. This funding provides nearly $190.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools.

03. The American Rescue Plan – this Act is incorporated into the ESSER funding (becoming ARP ESSER), and districts have used this grant to implement professional training for staff, hire more teachers, and to create afterschool programs.

Final Thoughts

Many teachers struggle with engaging disengaged students, especially in afterschool or summer school programs. However, with the right tools and meeting your students where their interests lie, you can drastically improve classroom engagement.

Box Cars ships their products seven days a week across Canada and the United States. We take great care in ensuring your packages arrive safely and on time. Discounts are almost always available when we also provide professional development workshops and webinars.
If you’d like to learn more about our products and training programs, visit our product pages. If you’d like to purchase our award-winning manipulatives, contact us and ask to speak with Jane. We’d be happy to customize a solution that will help your students (and you!) thrive in the classroom.