Student workbooks are excellent tools for keeping students busy and helping them learn. But your workbook isn’t going to be very effective if your students aren’t actively engaged with it.
What does it take to achieve student engagement? And how can you use this knowledge to create a better workbook?
The Essentials for Student Engagement
First, what are the essentials for student engagement? What does it take to get students to genuinely pay attention to and engage with your material?
· Design and printing. From the cover design to your choice of binding, your overall design and printing standards play a crucial role in helping students feel engaged. Most students aren’t going to be criticizing the quality of your paper consciously, but investing in higher quality printed materials and higher quality insurance at your chosen printing company can help form a better first impression in students reading your workbook for the first time. Additionally, careful attention to design can make your material easier to read, more fun to peruse, and more interesting to look at overall.
· Organization and accessibility. Students also need to have an easy time navigating the workbook, so good organization and accessibility are absolute musts. Different sections should be clearly marked, students should know what came previously and what’s coming next, and there shouldn’t be major leaps between different sections.
· Wording and readability. Next, you’ll need to think about wording and readability. This can be tricky to get right, especially if you’re creating workbooks for students of different ages or different levels of ability. The best way to tell whether your wording is on point is to test it with a member of the demographics you’re targeting.
· Level of challenge. Similarly, you need to find an appropriate level of challenge. If the workbook is too easy, students are going to quickly get bored and abandon the work, or half-heartedly complete the workbook without learning anything. If the workbook is too hard, students are going to get frustrated and also abandon the work, or never make it past the first few problems.
· Entertainment/humor. Workbooks can also be much more engaging if they include some aspect of entertainment or humor. Telling stories as part of problems, including illustrations, and adding some fun games can instantly make your workbook more appealing to most students.
Strategies for More Engaging Student Workbooks
Here are some more specific strategies that you can use to make your student workbooks more engaging:
· Allow for plenty of white space. White space, in art and design, is practically necessary to get people to focus on the most important elements – and provide aesthetic value in its own right. Too often, student workbook creators attempt to cram as much information as possible into the finite space they have. It’s often better to leave some extra space for greater readability and comprehensibility.
· Start with a warmup. If the first problem students encounter is a legendarily tough one, it’s going to set a bad tone for the entire book. Instead, start with a warmup. A few easy problems, a couple of fun games, or brief stories could be a great introduction.
· Write for your target audience. It’s valuable to write specifically for your target audience, and not anybody else. What does the average 5th grader like and dislike? How do they typically engage with this type of material? How is this different than, say, a 6th grader or a 4th grader might engage with this type of material?
· Frame problems as stories. Storytelling is hugely powerful, especially for children. Try to incorporate elements of storytelling however you can, such as by creating characters out of abstractions or demonstrating principles with clear narratives.
· Provide opportunities for individual expression. Authentic, individual expression is good for your mental health and wellbeing. It’s also a perfect way to get students to engage with your material more deeply. Give students as many opportunities as possible to express themselves as individuals, such as by drawing, writing, or coming up with unique solutions to problems.
· Stimulate additional thought. Get your students to think! Use thought experiments, real-life application examples, and similar prompts to help students go beyond the workbook text.
· Collect feedback. And finally, make it a point to collect feedback. Circulate the workbook among the types of students you’re targeting and ask them what they think about it. Children are notoriously honest, and sometimes brutally so, so there’s little doubt you’ll get meaningful feedback that you can incorporate into the next version of your workbook.
With more engaging student workbooks, your students are going to learn more, have more fun, and ultimately walk away with a better learning experience. It’s not easy to perfect the art of creating student workbooks, but it has boundless potential rewards.