Increasing Activity Engagement Levels

Categories: Basic Skills

Have you ever walked into a work with teacher or one on one session and thought, “Oh wow he/she is just going to love this activity”! You have all your supports, you’re ready and suddenly there is not nearly as much engagement as you thought? Maybe you even see some maladaptive behaviors such as swiping, crying, or task avoidance, communicating very clearly that this is not something that seems fun to your student. I have! Sometimes what seems exciting to us may be higher demand for the student or may need something to shake it up a bit!

Adding a core motor component

Over the years I have found that adding a small motor component typically increases engagement in some tasks.  Now you may be thinking, wait, the original activity was not as engaging why would adding a step make it more appealing?  Well, it depends on the learner what type of motor component might be more appealing. For example, practicing verbal imitations with a student by holding up an object may not be as engaging as pulling the object out of a bag, having a student find it in a tub of kinetic sand, or putting the object into a box.

In this picture, I took a fine motor and labeling activity and made it more engaging by wrapping some of the pieces in paper.  I knew that this student was motivated by opening objects so adding the paper made this activity brand new and much more appealing.  If you had a group of students, you could practice taking turns requesting an object by saying or using a core board, “my turn” and labeling the object once it’s opened.  You could also use other materials such as tissue paper, unused kid’s socks (just stick the object right in) or roll objects up with washcloths. 

For this basic learner skill of matching objects to pictures, I added some plastic trucks I found during the springtime at the Dollar Tree.  You could also use spring eggs and add objects in those (don’t be afraid to use them year-round)! With this specific activity while in the home, I coached the mother to hand her child one truck at a time upon request, he opened it and then would run to me across the room and match the object to the picture.  Adding both a fine and gross motor component to this activity really added engagement to this activity while working on many different skills (ie: following receptive directions, requesting, labeling, opening a small object, walking, and running, squatting down and matching objects to pictures).

Check out my video below on these activities.  How could you modify some of your tried-and-true activities and increase engagement? Happy Learning!

Gina Russell, B.S , M.Ed
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