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Early Childhood Engagement Strategies

Page history last edited by Sharon Morgan 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Engagement Strategies, PK-2nd


The following strategies could be used in an early childhood classroom to increase engagement in literacy activities. Teachers should use their wisdom in knowing when and how often to employ these various strategies.




Lesson Placement 


A to Z


Make a list of the letters from A to Z on a chart paper (if using individually or with groups, use the printable from The Teacher Toolkit linked below).  Be sure to leave room to write a word or phrase after each letter. Label it with the topic of your choice.  Before the lesson, ask students to think of words/phrases related to the topic and list them beneath the appropriate letter.  For example, the word predator would be listed under the letter P.  During the lesson, encourage students to continue to think of words/phrases to add to the chart.  After the lesson, use the chart to review the topic covered.  Ask students to review the words on the chart to ensure that everything is correct based on what was learned. 

The Teacher Toolkit A-Z

The Teacher Toolkit A-Z Spanish 

This engagement strategy may be used at the beginning of a lesson to activate prior knowledge or as a formative assessment.  It may be used during the lesson to take notes and it may be used at the end of the lesson for a review. 


Act It Out 

To help students memorize or retain information, have them associate what they are learning or practicing with an action of movement.  Examples:  Letter/Sounds, Vocabulary, Phonemic Awareness 

This engagement strategy can be used during the lesson to help students retain new/difficult information or after your lesson as a review of what was covered.    

Beach Ball Talk

& Toss

Students toss a beach ball back and forth.  Students respond to a prompt on the ball.  Responses may be identifying initial sounds of a picture or producing a rhyming word.  Students may also answer comprehension questions, such as Who is the main character? What did you learn from the story?  What happened at the beginning?   Other ideas are to write or tape images, letters, words, or questions to the ball as a prompt for the intended learning.

This engagement strategy may be used at the beginning of a lesson to brainstorm or end to review skills taught.   

Call Backs 

Call backs are an effective and fun strategy to quickly engage students’ attention.  Call backs involve using a specific word, phrase, signal, or action that prompts students to respond in a desired way, typically by directing their attention back on the teacher or lesson at hand.  There are many sets available with teacher call backs that can be adjusted and varied for student engagement.   Call Backs   Attention Getters in Spanish 

This engagement strategy may be used to gain students’ attention at any time during the lesson. 


Dictating Thoughts 

With young children, dictation offers a way for a teacher to record a child's thoughts or ideas when the writing demands surpass writing skills.  Dictation provides a chance for the teacher to model many writing behaviors including handwriting, matching sounds-to-letters to spell words, and sentence formation.  

This engagement strategy may be used at the end of a lesson after students have created a drawing.  


Dictating Words 


The teacher says a word, students repeat the word out loud, orally segment the word, write it on paper while saying the sounds, check spelling, then correct if needed. 

This engagement strategy may be used in the middle for guided practice of new skills or at the end as a formative assessment. 

Double Bubble Map 

A double bubble map is a graphic organizer used to compare and contrast two concepts.  It has two separate circles connected by lines.  The lines connecting the circles are used to write down similarities.  Additional circles are added for unique features or differences.  This organizer helps students visually organize comparisons, identify relationships, and generate ideas.  For younger students, the class may complete the organizer together, with the teacher's guidance.   

This engagement strategy may be used during reading, individually or in pairs.  Additionally, this graphic organizer could be used as a before writing activity.   

Find Your Match 

Create a set of cards consisting of matching pairs that focus on a skill you want your students to practice or review.  Give each student a card and have them find the person with the card that matches or corresponds to theirs.  Possible skill decks could include: rhyming words, antonyms, synonyms, letters/initial sound correspondences, upper/lowercase letter match, vocabulary/definitions, word/picture, parts of speech, onset/rime, etc.  

This engagement strategy may be used at the beginning of a  lesson to review, during a lesson to practice a skill, or after a lesson as an informal assessment. 

Four Corners

Give students a prompt and assign corners of the room.  Each corner should contain an image and/or sign to identify the corner.  Students go to the corner they most agree with.  They discuss their view with their corner before debating it with the other corners of the room.   

This engagement strategy may be used as an opener to get students thinking, during the lesson to allow students to show their thinking, or after a lesson to show how thinking changed. 

Frayer Model (with guidance)

Use a version of the Frayer Model to create class anchor charts for new and interesting words. The middle of the diagram will be the word and the four corners include a student-friendly definition, a picture or visual representation of the word, an example (synonym), and a non-example (antonym). The example and non-example can also be in picture form as shown in the sample. 


This engagement strategy may be used at the beginning of a lesson to introduce a new word and during the lesson as students learn more about the word.  It may also be used at the end to review new vocabulary.


I Notice, I Wonder

Students discuss and provide feedback on interesting art/photographs using “I notice…” and/or “I wonder…” sentence starters. Label pictures with words and phrases for further reference. Write the words/phrases on sentence strips and place them in the writing center for students to use to create sentences, stories, sorts, etc.

In this engagement strategy, "I notice..." may be at the beginning of a lesson to build interest in a topic.  "I wonder...." may be used at the beginning of a lesson to provoke higher levels of thinking.  A the end, the teacher may refer back to both areas to make connections to things learned during the lesson. 

Quick Draw

After learning a new concept or topic, students draw a picture about what they’ve just learned in 5 minutes or less. This gives them time to think about the concept and visually articulate their learning. Then allow students to share with a partner before sharing out with the class. 

This engagement strategy may be used at the beginning of the lesson to see what students know, then again at the end as an informal assessment to see how their ideas changed. 

Response Cards

Use Response Cards for any number of responses, including agree/disagree, true/false, yes/no, greater than/less than, multiple choice, and emotions. For example, while reading a book together as a class, the teacher may pause and ask her students what they think the character is feeling right now. Students should then be able to display the correct response using the corresponding card. 

This engagement strategy may be used before, during, or after the lesson to check for understanding and keep students engaged in the lesson.

Think Pair Share

Students get a few minutes of think time to formulate a response before sharing.  Next, they discuss their ideas with a partner.  Students are then encouraged to share with the class their individual or partner responses.  To use this in an early childhood classroom, model the process, then have students practice the steps using a simple topic of interest.  

This engagement strategy may be used before, during, and after a lesson to give students opportunities to share their thinking with each other, then the class. 


Visual Imagery


After the teacher reads a descriptive sentence or paragraph, the teacher thinks-aloud to describe the image created in his/her mind and explain how the mental images help readers better understand. The teacher continues reading, stops after key sentences, then asks students to share the images created in their minds. Then, the teacher addresses reasons for differences in images described by students.

This engagement strategy may be used at the beginning of a lesson to help set the stage for a story.  It may be used during a lesson to clarify meaning and make connections with a text.  It may be used after a lesson for students to see how their ideas changed. 


Teachers and students complete a 3-2-1 anchor chart over concept or topic through a shared writing experience.

  • 3 - things we learned

  • 2 - interesting things

  • 1 - question we still have

This engagement strategy may be used as an informal assessment after your lesson.  


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