Your students love video games.
They love action movies and bawdy comedies.
They love snowball fights, skateboards, birthday parties, and action sports.
They love laughter and thrills, challenge and daring-do.
They want to leap off thirty-foot cliffs into murky water below. They want to go on zip-lines, amusement-park rides, water slides.
They want to score the winning goal, hang out with their crazy friends, and eat pizza seven nights a week.
They spend their waking moments thinking about, pursuing, or engaging in their desires.
And then they walk into your classroom.
Boredom Equals Misbehavior
I know, I know… It’s not your job to entertain your students or compete with the excesses of the world.
But if you can’t grab their attention and enchant them with your lessons and teaching style, you’re going to lose them to boredom and disinterest.
And, as predictable as the rising sun, unengaged students misbehave, break rules, and seek fulfillment in less-than-acceptable ways.
Just the way it is.
The key to capturing your students’ attention, and keeping it, is to tap into four desires nearly every student has in abundance.
Students crave adventure, and if you can give it to them, even in small doses and in vicarious ways, they’ll love being in your classroom.
Organize scavenger hunts and walking field trips and outdoor art lessons. Choose read-alouds that transport to other worlds. Act out scenes of scientific discovery. Perform your favorite book passages. Reenact moments in history instead of just reading about them.
Dive headlong into the dramatic stories of adventure behind the yawn-inducing curriculum you’ve been saddled with. Be wary of the current push in more and more technology, and get your students up and experiencing their learning.
Bring regular doses of fun and laugher into your classroom, and your students will follow you to the ends of the earth. Besides storytelling, nothing compares to the rapport-building, behavior-influencing power of humor. Be open to it and you’ll find it everywhere you look.
There is no place like a classroom full of kids to find the comically absurd, the notably amusing, and the downright hilarious. No, you don’t have to abandon your rules or waste learning time.
The truth is, when your students are happy to be in your class, when they can have a good laugh once in a while, they’re less likely to misbehave and more open to learning.
Among the happiest of people are those whose work challenges them—without it being unreachable, undoable, or discouraging. And this is what you must do with your students. You must continually give them challenges they think they can do, but aren’t absolutely sure.
The best way to do this is through provocative questioning: Who thinks they can teach the class how to perform the experiment? What group wants to try to tackle this problem? Which pair can do this the best, the fastest, or without making a mistake?
Your job is to know what your students can do so you can ask for a little more—in tempting challenges dangled before them throughout the day.
This is where your skill as a teacher and showwoman (or showman) comes in. I’ve found that in every lesson and in every activity there is an opportunity to infuse a dose of fascination and wonderment.
This strategy can be so powerful and can be used in so many different ways, limited only by your imagination. Find the one thing in your lesson that is unique, unusual, magical, shocking, incredible, secretive, special, exclusive, or in some way different and use it to lure your students in.
Now on the surface this one thing might not be very compelling. The trick is to visualize your lesson objectives through the eyes of your students. Find the one thing that stands out and then make it compelling. Make it something your students can’t ignore, even if they tried.
Teach To The Heart
If your classroom doesn’t include these elements, if you’re simply following along with the paint-by-numbers curriculum you’ve been provided, then classroom management will be a never-ending struggle.
And academic progress will be teeth-pulling slow.
When you regularly tap into your students’ natural desires, however, when you speak and teach directly to their hearts, rather than into their ears and over their heads…
Then their eyes will widen, their backs will straighten in their seats, and they’ll be filled with the love of learning.
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