Lesson #5 in Student Engagement – Leave Students Wanting More

In fifth grade, Mrs. Baker used to read to us classic books for 15 minutes just before school let out for the day. She always had a way of stopping right as things were getting exciting. We would have to wait a whole day before we could hear what would happen next.

Mrs. Baker left us wanting more.

No matter your opinion, Soap Opera’s are the best at doing this. There are always feuds, crime, innuendo, family politics, secrets and dramatic cliff hangers that are sure to leave viewers wanting more.

Now Soap Opera’s aren’t always stimulating or great entertainment, but imagine if you could take your good course content and find a way to build anticipation like Soap’s and make your students want more?

5 Ways to Build Anticipation in Your Class

  1. Be Anticipated: If you aren’t excited about upcoming lectures then why will your students? You need to have direction for your class and a plan for upcoming lectures. Take a few extra minutes to make the schedule in your syllabus sound little more exciting instead of a plain weekly checklist of topics to cover. This is a great way to communicate that you have control over the class and that each week in the term will be packed with new and interesting activities.
  2. Have competitions: Over the course of the semester divide your students into teams and have them compete for a prize. Make sure the reward is actually valuable and unrelated to grades. Students will be excited each week about the progress they make and will be anxious to see who can come out on top.
  3. Finish your lectures with a question: If you ask an interesting question students will want to know the answer. If you make them wait for the answer you will be able to create the anticipation you are looking for.
  4. Don’t be Too Comprehensive: If you cover every single angle of a topic, students will have no need to ask questions or delve into topics on their own. It’s OK to purposely leave one angle uncovered so that students can figure it out on their own. If your worried about students missing a vital concept – don’t. It’s unlikely that one small stone left unturned will affect your students’ futures.
  5. Create video trailers for each lecture and post them online before class: Every movie has a trailer. The quality of the trailer can be the difference between a movie making money and losing money. Since nobody makes trailers for lectures – yours needs to be just mildly interesting and students will eat them up.


Too much anticipation can be a bad thing. Like our Soap Opera example, if every point of communication between you and your students ends with a cliffhanger the students will become frustrated wondering if they will ever have the answers.

Build anticipation naturally. Make sure that your lectures still contain good content and interaction and respect your student’s intelligence. If you go overboard with cliffhangers, they’ll be able to tell and it will turn them off.

Homework: Take 15 minutes to revisit your next three or four lectures. See if there are any logical transitions or distinct places where you can build anticipation for an upcoming lecture, project, and field trip or, like lesson #4 in this series, a surprise.

Once you have everything planned, see if you can make your students more excited about your next lecture by building some anticipation.

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