Engagement Strategies

I’m going to compile a list of the most effective engagement strategies for the TPRS classroom. I have a few tried and true ones but I’m always looking for more! Please add to the list in the comments!

1. Ping-pong translation/Airplane translation

I learned this strategy last year from Von Ray at the TRPS conference in Denver. Students practice translating and pronouncing the language in partners.

Here’s the set-up: Students’ desks are in pairs and the pairs are in rows, like an airplane. All students have a reading in front of them.

  • Student A reads the first sentence. “Hay un muchacho.”
  • Student B translates “There is a boy” and reads the next line “Se llama Jacobo.”
  • Student A translates and reads the next line.

Then, the partner on the left moves up one seat, greets their new partner, and asks where they left off in the reading. They start the reading wherever the slower reader left off. They translate for a minute or two, then move up to another partner.

All students are on task the whole time, using the target structures in context. It is beautiful to see all that learning happening!

2. Group games/Random Student

I used the game Famous One-liners from Martina Bex’s Dice Unit but the strategy can be used for any game. Students got in groups of four with one whiteboard between them. Each student got a number in the group 1-4. I said ¿Quién dice “You’re a Wizard, Harry!,” then I called out a number. Students had to pass the whiteboard to that number student and write the full sentence. The team who was ready first earned 3 points and the other teams that got it right earned 1 point.

All students will be engaged in the question, just in case they are ones who have to write the answer. The competition keeps them working hard, too!

3. Engagement assessment during storytelling

Students have the Daily Engagement Assessment rubric, as a checklist during storyasking.

During storyasking, students show they are engaged by:

  • Sitting with squared shoulders, clear eyes, clear desk and hands
  • Responding to the questions chorally or individually
  • Giving signals if they don’t understand
    • one clap means I don’t understand
    • twirling your fingers/arms back (kind of like the referee’s signal for traveling in basketball) means slow down/repeat

Students assess themselves on the engagement checklist at the end of the story and take a short listening quiz or informal listening assessment. I created this listening assessment and story quiz on the same page. Here is the PDF version and here is the editable version.

4. Brain breaks

Brains, especially middle school brains, can only be engaged in one activity for a short amount of time (some say 8 minutes, some say 20 minutes). Martina explains the purpose and effectiveness of Brain Breaks and provides 20 ready-to-use Brain Breaks in this FREE download!

I know there are many other activities out there and I look forward to implementing Martina Bex’s Fan N Pick strategy and Running Dictation Relay in my class this year! I’m also looking for more cooperative learning strategies for the TPRS classroom, where all students in the group are essential to the activity, and all students are held accountable for their learning.

What activities or strategies do YOU use to keep all students engaged in their learning?


5 thoughts on “Engagement Strategies

  1. Thanks for this blog post! I really like the student engagement self-assessment coupled with the listening quiz. I appreciate that you provided an editable version because I adapted it for French and have been using it in my classes! I am presenting on story asking in a couple weeks and I was wondering if I could share your self-assessment. I would credit where it came from, or course! Don’t hesitate to contact me at murph_1613@yahoo.com. Thanks again!


    1. I am so happy you find my materials useful! Yes, please share it! I’ve always heard “the best teachers are the best thieves”, but I prefer “the best teachers are the best collaborators”! Enjoy your teaching! – Lauren


  2. Hi Lauren,
    At some point on your blog I think I saw a participation self-reflection sheet or pictures of posters from your classroom. I can’t remember. Whatever the resource was, it outlined what a 10/10 in participation looked like, 9/10 and so on.
    If possible, can you send a link to that page or searchable keywords.


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