Keeping the Unengaged Club Kid Engaged

Let us set the scenario for you. Club kids are going back to school, meaning after school programming is kicking off. You have a grant funded program, or multiple programs, starting that require you to complete educational lessons and activities. In your group of kids, there is a chance that you see a combination of the following three types of participants.

  1. There is the “self-motivated” participant who cannot wait for the lesson to start, answers questions when asked, and does all activities with enthusiasm.
  2. There is the “going through the motions” participant who may think the lessons are unimportant, but listens quietly and completes the activities because that is what is expected.
  3. Finally, there is the “unengaged” participant who seems to have no interest in what lesson you are facilitating and will do everything but what is being asked.

Now if you have a group of “self-motivated” participants only, then please let us know your best practices! (Really, we would love to share with others.) But if you have a few Club kids in mind that either go through the motions to get things done or are completely unengaged, read on!

Engaging the unengaged has been a task that educators and program leaders have been trying to tackle for years! At times, it can seem impossible. However, we worked to create a list of ideas that will help you make the impossible possible.

First, set clear expectations. Sounds simple, right? Sometimes this is so simple that it is overlooked. Let the group know what you expect throughout all lessons and activities. Write the expectations on a sheet of paper and hang them up where the lessons are done so they are accessible at all times. Have children act out good behavior versus bad behavior. Whatever works so that they will remember what is expected of them.

Do an interest inventory of your group. Knowing the interests of your unengaged participants can help you tailor the lessons and activities so that they can take a personal interest in what is going on. Does your unengaged participant love putting together model cars and you are running a STEM program? Great! Take a lesson about engineering and provide an activity that has them using their hands to build something. Want to take a step further and make it culturally relevant? Have them explore what type of transportation was traditionally used. Interest inventories that are already made can be found through a quick Google or Pinterest search.

Make the material relevant. This is to connect the lessons that you are facilitating with relatable scenarios or situations that are happening in the lives of the participants. Maybe you are doing a nutritional program that includes lessons about good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Have the participants pretend that they are chefs for their favorite athlete, singer, or author. As the chef they have to create healthy menus for their chosen person! This allows for the kids to practice planning and healthy decision making, which are lifelong skills, while connecting the lesson to the interests of the participants.

Make the material developmentally appropriate. We all, even as adults, operate at different skill levels. Get background information about your unengaged participant(s). Maybe they have difficulty reading or doing math related activities which cause them to act out when they are asked to do activities that require the skill they are uncomfortable with. Does your unengaged participant have issues with reading? That is fine. Read the instructions of your activity out loud and then follow up with the participant afterwards in a way that does not draw attention to the situation at hand.

Next time you go to do an activity with a notorious unengaged participant, take a deep breath. They can be reached and engaged in your lessons or activities. It just may take a little more time. Try out the tips above. Find one that works best for your group. If you have an suggestions, feel free to send them our way ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) so we can share with others!