• EdThreads
  • Posts
  • Engagement norms to tighten up student participation in your classroom

Engagement norms to tighten up student participation in your classroom

What could you focus on or tighten up to improve norms of engagement in your classroom?

Engagement norms are a set of tools that a teacher develops in order to keep students engaged and learning. The terminology comes from Explicit Direct Instruction, which I chatted with John Hollingsworth about in ERRR episode 37.

One of the great strengths of engagement norms is they can be used to improve any lesson, even if the way that the lesson is structured doesn’t mirror a traditional Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) approach.

In this way, the engagement norms can be a powerful place for teachers to start when improving their practice. Here is a list of the engagement norms proposed in EDI.

And here’s a brief overview of each:

Pronounce with me

Model the pronunciation of hard words. This can be done in an ‘I say’ then ‘You say’ format.

Track with me

Have students actively point at the board and track with their fingers what they’re reading.

During whole class reading, students at ​Michaela Community School​ use a ruler to show which line they’re upto in their text (a good alternative if students are reading from books or printouts in front of them rather than from on the board).

Read with me

Three options

  1. Fully tracked: Teacher reads, students all read chorally

  2. Pronounce the hard words: Teacher pronounces hard words, whole class reads together

  3. Whole class reads together

‘Read with me’ is effective because it draws students’ attention to what is being learnt and it provides key support for the pronunciation of key vocabulary that is being taught.

Gesture with me

Often adding an action to an activity can help to encode the memory of a concept more effectively.


Pair-share should be used EVERY time a question is asked*. More on this in ‘TAPPLE’. A key thing to keep in mind when Pair-sharing is that you need to set a question, and provide the sentence stem (see ‘complete sentences’ below) prior to letting students pari-share

*The only exception is when the teacher is trying to assess student understanding towards the end of the class and poses a question for students to complete independently on their whiteboards.

Attention signal

An attention signal is a way to bring the class back together, especially after a pair-share. Examples

  • Teach: ​Eyes forward​. Students: ​Back straight

  • Teach: ​One, two, three​. Students: ​Eyes on me

  • You can make up your own.


Whiteboards are a powerful way to ensure that all students are engaging with all questions, as well as a method for teachers to quickly check responses from all students and get a sense of what percentage of the class is on track.

Complete Sentences

Encouraging students to answer in complete sentences is an excellent method for reinforcing the academic vocabulary that you are teaching. It also has the promise of increasing student confidence. In the beginning, and for struggling learners, write out the sentence stem on the board. Eventually, students should be able to construct the sentence stem from the question./

Example. Teacher: Which of these numbers is a prime number and why?

Sentence stem: ___ is a prime number because ___

Student says: 7 is a prime number because it is only divisible by 1 and itself.

Which engagement norms are you keen to establish or reinforce in your classroom? Could you pick one from the list above as a focus for the next couple of weeks?

Good luck!

Announcements and Opportunities

Applications for the year-long Certificate in Coaching Leadership which I’m running throughout 2024 are closing Feb 1st, so get in quick if you’re still keen to join. We have West and East-coast of Australia cohorts and a fantastic collection of passionate educators in each. I can’t wait to launch it on Feb 8th!

Don’t forget the Coaching Development Lead role currently up for Steplab too. A unique opportunity to come and work with yours truly!

Have an awesome week : )