The Propello Press | Education Insights, Resources, and Tools

The Thursday Three: Student Engagement

Welcome to the Thursday Three...on a Monday? Traditionally sent to our email subscribers on Thursday, we felt this content was too good not to share again here!

In each Thursday Three, we share three tools, techniques, and/or tidbits for your toolbox designed to help educators engage students, elevate classroom practice, and take learning to new heights!

Let’s fly! ✈️

“Why are we doing this?”

“This is boring.” 

“When are we going to lunch?”

-Students in 2024

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Ever hear any of your students say these...or something similar? Maybe you've looked at a student during a lesson, and you just know, despite everything you’ve done to guard against it, that student has checked out? 

You’re not alone.

When Students Don't Engage

According to a 2023 poll from Gradient Learning, over 80% of teachers say they are concerned about their students’ engagement when it comes to classroom-based learning. 

And with good reason. From video games to social media, it feels like a million different things are competing for student attention…and those very things are on a screen the kids bring every day to school. 


Meaning that educators are now actively competing with outside forces for their students’ attention, making it exponentially more difficult than it was just a generation ago to engage them in classroom learning.

Yes, it’s a challenge. But it’s one all know must be met because the risk isn’t just a student zoning out during a lesson. Persistent disengagement can result in emotional and cognizant withdrawal that leads them to leave school not only mentally, but physically as well (Conner, 2016). 

In a nutshell - disengagement today can lead to absenteeism tomorrow, and beyond that - dropping out of school altogether later on. 

This likely comes as no surprise to any educator reading this, from teachers and paraprofessionals in the classroom to district level administrators. 

After all, you’re seeing it happen in real time. 

So what can be done? 

The Power of Connections 

Think for a moment about what engages you. Likely, it’s something that quickly gets your attention and that you, in some way, have some sort of connection. Either you’ve learned about it before, you’ve experienced it, or maybe it’s just something you find interesting because it’s….interesting. 

Students are the same way. Think about a lesson you’ve done, or even one you participated in yourself as a student, that really, really stuck. 

What made it stick?

  • Maybe it connected to something you (or the students) were experienced personally. 
  • Perhaps the lesson presented a mystery that tickled your curiosity in a way that made it utterly irresistible to try solving. 
  • The activity might have presented a challenge, a throwing down of a gauntlet, that was just too good to pass up. 

There are likely more, but all of them are variations on a certain theme: They made a personal, and/or real-world connection that had immediate and ongoing meaning for the learner.


These connections are so powerful because by channeling students’ interests and background knowledge, can spark curiosity that leads not only to engagement, but deeper, more meaningful learning. 

As educators, you’ve likely heard all this before. 

And if we're being honest, the 80% who are worried about classroom engagement have probably heard it too. 

So if we know that we need to make real-world connections to increase engagement, the big question, perhaps, is how

This week, we're looking at how to start thinking about those real world connections, how to build them using phenomenon-based instruction, and then sharing a practical example that shows how it can be done. 

Let’s Engage!

If you’ve only got a few minutes…

This blog post from The Propello Press looks at phenomenon-based learning, and how it can spark all-important curiosity that sets the stage for engagement.


This pedagogical style, emphasized by the Next Generation Science Standards (but applicable to pretty much any academic content), uses an attention-getting phenomenon to immediately engage students, and then build on that curiosity throughout the lesson cycle.

The post then shares practical tips for incorporating it into your classroom practice. 

Click here to read the blog post.

If you’ve got a half-hour or so…

Education expert Dr. Tonya Clarke sat down with Propello’s VP of Curriculum Amanda Bratton to chat about her experience teaching math and the strategies she used to engage students by connecting lessons to their background interests and experiences.

Screenshot 2024-03-04 at 12.22.56 PMDr. Clarke shares not only how she helped students connect to their learning, but what the effect those connections had on students not only learning the academic content, but how it helped them build skills such as perseverance and problem solving. 

Click here to listen to the podcast

If You’re Looking For A Lesson Example…

Most students are aware that the difference between the tropics and the South Pole is extreme to say the least. So why have tropical fossils been found in Antarctica?  icebear-3277930_1280

 In this Propello lesson, we’ll show you how to present an irresistible mystery to students. By investigating something that makes zero sense on the surface, they'll discover that it actually makes perfect sense as they uncover the science behind the mystery. 

Get The Lesson Here


Ready To Take Learning To New Heights? 

Sign up for a free Propello account to discover a world of possibilities for enhancing your students' learning. With inquiry-based, student centered activities available at a click, Propello is here to support you on your journey to creating engaging and effective science lessons that inspire young minds.

  • For Teachers: Click here for a free account to get access to the Propello library of inquiry-based, phenomenon-grounded, student-centered activities. 

  • For Administrators: Click here to book a call to learn how you can bring Propello's lessons, assessment tools, training options, and more to your district or campus...and for less per student than the price of a latte. ☕

Together, the sky’s the limit! ✈️