How to Keep Students Engaged in After-School Activities

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Allison Romano |
February 7, 2022 |
For Providers | For Teachers |

After a long day of learning in the classroom, the last thing students want to do is sit still and focus. Because of the challenges this time of day presents, after-school programs are tasked with capturing the attention of students and keeping them engaged throughout the course of the program. This is no easy feat. But if you keep several things in mind, you’ll be sure to pique the interest of your students and keep them excited to participate and learn.

Create a Fun, Supportive Environment

For students to invest their valuable time into your program, it is crucial to foster an environment in which they feel comfortable putting themselves out there.

Although extracurricular endeavors can be ambitious, finding ways to throw in some fun is key. Let students witness your own enthusiasm, and they won’t be able to resist sharing in your excitement. See if there are ways to integrate games and friendly competition. And don’t forget to celebrate victories big and small. Celebration is not only fun, it helps students to recognize their progress and accomplishments.

Students crave a sense of belonging and want to feel cared for, so it’s essential to build relationships with your students. Pay attention to what is happening in their lives and engage them in conversation. Positive interactions with a trusted adult can make quite the impact on young people.

Students also place high value on social interaction with their peers. What a great opportunity you have to bring peers together and cultivate friendships around a common interest!

Indulge Their Interests

One of the best ways to engage students is by appealing to their needs, interests, and curiosities. When you understand what intrinsically motivates your students, you can tailor your activities to suit each unique group of individuals.

It’s helpful to ask for your students’ input and then incorporate their ideas into the activities. Take a survey on what interests them. Involve them in brainstorming themes. Pay attention to the questions they ask. When you have an understanding of what resonates with your students, it will be easier to design lessons that will hold their interest.

Also, be sure to communicate the purpose and relevance of the activities. Especially with older students, try to connect the activities to the real world. Articulate how they relate to their current lives, their future success, and the world around them.

Shake Things Up

After sitting at their desks all day, the best way to keep students engaged is to get them up and moving. If you embrace their energy, you will be more likely to direct their focus towards accomplishing the projects and tasks at hand.

Since attention spans are especially short after school, it’s important to be prepared and keep things flowing. Plan out short intervals of assorted activities, staggering high energy activities with low-key ones. As you go along, pay attention to what is working and what is not. If your students are losing interest, be ready and to cut an activity short or make a change mid-activity.

To keep students engaged over time, also try to vary the activities session-to-session. And every so often, shake things up with an unanticipated surprise to keep things fresh and exciting.

By connecting with your students and allowing room for flexibility, you can create an environment that encourages engagement. When students are eager to participate, they will be able to connect with their peers and get the most out of your program. Let us know in the comments: what’s your favorite way to get students engaged in your after-school activity?


Just want the cliff notes? Here are some of our main ideas for keeping students engaged:

  • Show your own enthusiasm

  • Integrate games and friendly competition

  • Celebrate big and small victories

  • Engage students in casual conversation

  • Ask students for their input with surveys or brainstorming

  • Communicate the purpose and relevance of activities

  • Get them up and moving

  • Plan short intervals of assorted activities

  • Don’t hesitate to switch it up mid-activity

  • Throw in an unanticipated surprise from time to time


Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash.