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