A Simple Way To Teach Compelling Lessons

Smart Classroom Management: A Simple Wat To Teach Compelling LessonsHere at SCM, we receive a lot of questions about how to teach lessons that capture student interest.

And for good reason.

The ability to get your students to want to listen and pay attention plays a critical role in curbing misbehavior.

It also profoundly affects their enjoyment of the class and the quality of their work.

But it’s a big topic.

Too big for a single article—or even a series of articles.

So I devoted several chapters of The Happy Teacher Habits to explaining how to plan and deliver lessons your students can’t help but become engrossed in.

But I understand the need to learn small chunks of the process.

I know the value of taking one bit of advice into each day. Often, one thing, or one particular thought or idea, can make a big difference.

So, in that spirit, I thought I’d share a strategy you can use for every lesson you teach that will result in better interest and attentiveness from your students.

It’s a strategy you may already be using to some degree, but will want to highlight and really emphasize.

When I observe teachers introduce lessons, most focus on the ‘what’ of the lesson. As in, what is being taught.

Today, we’re going to learn how to divide fractions.”

But the problem with this approach is that the ‘what’ is boring. It’s groan inducing. It rarely, if ever, makes a connection with students.

It doesn’t resonate.

Which means that just listening to you longer than a couple minutes is a challenge. Concentrating enough to actually learn the material takes tremendous discipline and willpower.

Traits many of our students just don’t have.

So instead of focusing on ‘what’ you’re going to teach, focus on what’s in it for them. Focus on why it’s worth learning.

Focus on the benefits.

Now, these benefits may look different for every lesson you teach, and sometimes you’ll have to be creative to find them.

But they’re always there.

When you sit down to plan your lessons, your job is to find at least one thing, one benefit, and then use it as the lead-in.

I’m going to show you a cool trick to dividing fractions today that you’re not going to believe!”

By learning how to divide fractions, you’ll have the superhero skill to solve dozens of other problems with ease.”

Dividing fractions makes you smarter and better looking, and today I’m going to show you how.”

I use math as an example because it often presents the biggest challenge to finding your one benefit. But again, it’s always there.

And yes, it’s okay to use humor. It’s okay to pull connections from the wider world. Your benefit doesn’t even have to be directly related. (Sometimes it’s best if it’s not.)

It just has to be interesting.

In time, and with practice, your one thing will become easy to find. It will jump out at you from the page.

Just think about what is—or can be—fun or weird or scary or fascinating or gross or surprising or helpful or otherwise noteworthy about your topic, and then sell it to your students during your introduction.

Give them a reason to want to learn about what you have to teach them. Use your quirky knowledge and enthusiasm for the topic to draw them in.

Explain what’s in it for them. Tell them why the lesson is worth their time.

Provide a benefit.

And you’ll capture their interest for every lesson you teach.

PSThe Smart Classroom Management Plan for High School Teachers, which is a downloadable e-guide, will be available on July 18th.

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6 Responses to A Simple Way To Teach Compelling Lessons

  1. Jill cooper July 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    I was in sales 24 years before teaching. I think my success in teaching is all because of the benefit pitch. Always tell them what they’ll get out of it!! And always include them important decisions

  2. THeresa Y. Michna July 2, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    I also always preface my lessons with the benefit pitch. I can see students’ eyes opening wider as they listen. This is great advice, thanks!

    • Michael Linsin July 2, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

      You’re welcome, Theresa!


  3. Kim July 9, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    I have recently returned to teaching kindergarten and need creative ways to teach better and grab and “keep” students attention ! I think the benefit idea may work for them as well but keeping them engaged and involved without over exciting them can be challenging. Do you have ideas and resources for this age group as well? Enjoyed reading your article! KM

    • Michael Linsin July 9, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Kim,

      The website and strategies therein work for kindergarten as well with mostly obvious modifications. I’ll keep your question in mind for future articles.


    • Danielle July 17, 2016 at 12:46 am #

      Hi Kim,

      I teach KInder too, I know exactly what you mean about getting them too excited. It’s tough sometimes, if I get my kiddos too excited I then have to spend time getting them to calm down. I would love to see some suggestions geared toward the littles. In kinder sometimes its hard to adapt these suggestions because the students are so young and most of them have never attended school. Kinder is a different world all together sometimes. I have enjoyed reading the articles and have been able to utilize some suggestions.