Getting to Know Your Students: Searching for the Spark

4 min read

| Originally posted by Times 10 Publications |

Teachers often get swept up in student achievement. That’s understandable—it’s one of our primary jobs. But teachers also have an obligation to foster student passion. When students pursue their passion, their spark, they’re engaged.

That spark is hidden in some students. Others don’t even realize they have one. You can help.

In his book Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips and Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily, available in the Times 10 Publications Professional Learning Collection 1—accessible through Gale’s award-winning eBook platform—veteran teacher James Sturtevant shares 50 teacher tools that will make students love your class. And you can apply these unique, exciting, actionable tips and tools right now. 

Each hack begins with a thorough explanation of a problem that teachers commonly face, then offers a detailed solution that anyone can easily use to engage students. 

There are concrete steps to apply the solution the next day at the end of every chapter.

Search for the Spark

Become an undercover investigator! Begin your investigation early in the semester. Assign various types of hands-on activities that free you to cruise around and ask all sorts of questions, some pertaining to the activity, some geared to learning about student interests, and others focused on getting to know kids better:

  • How do you like this activity?
  • What’s your favorite class?
  • Who’s your favorite teacher?
  • What would you rather be doing?
  • What do you like to do on the weekends?
  • What’s the first thing you do when you get home from school?
  • What do you do well?
  • How would you improve this assignment?
  • How could we expand this assignment?

As soon as you see or sense that little spark, try to confirm it: “You seem to enjoy watching YouTube. For our next unit, would you like to create a documentary about the Arab-Israeli conflict and then post it online?”

It will be evident immediately if you’ve struck gold. If not, keep searching for the spark. The potential payoffs are huge. Through observation and friendly interrogation, you can find student sparks. Kids are intensely engaged when they pursue their passions. 

 What You Can Do

  • Create an activity that provides many options for expressing understanding. Allow students to choose their method for expression. This will be an excellent first step in finding the spark.
  • Promote an example. Tell a story of a past student who thrived once they started chasing a passion. Do this frequently.
  • Become a private investigator. The subtle nature of your investigation is important in finding the spark. Students don’t like being involuntary lab rats, so observe and question in a friendly, casual way.

Foster Engagement

Once you discover the spark, it’ll shape how you motivate and interact with students.

Finding a student’s spark and then exploiting it is a key to engagement. Teachers can find this spark through observation and interaction.


This article includes excerpts from Hacking Engagement, published by Times 10 Publications.

Explore professional development collections on Gale eBooks >>

About the Publisher
Times 10 Publications’ educational books provide practical solutions that busy educators can read today and use tomorrow. Founded on the belief that teachers and leaders have little time and limited resources, Times 10 creates easily digestible content, including time-tested strategies from their authors—experienced practitioners, recognized as experts in their subjects. You have problems; Times 10 has solutions.

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