Look for Ways to Make it Relevant and Fun – You and Your Students Will Come out Ahead
I'm always up for a reminder about the things we need to do capture student's attention while learning about a new subject. And it's a great way to start the week! – KW
Making your students interested in a subject can be a real challenge. There are so many variables that can affect their engagement.
Lack of interest can be caused by difficultly concentrating, family problems, emotional difficulties, learning disabilities, and many other factors. Sometimes it’s just plain boredom – not everything is about fun all the time. Even the bubbling hormones running through the teenagers’ bodies can cause difficulty to concentrate on anything other than the schoolmate in the nearest chair.
Having said that, as a teacher, you still have to do your best and try to get them to learn at least the basics of any subject. Here you will have to become creative and try one or more of the following ways to get their attention and interest.
1 – Make them see it as part of their daily life
Try as hard as you can to find a way to relate the subject to their daily lives. It will make it much more likely for them to be invested in what you are explaining. For example, if the subject is literature, try to show what they can learn from the characters’ behaviour that they can apply to their own lives.
2 – Make it fun
Yes, sometimes, some subjects are just not fun. You are well aware of it, but you still have to teach this “boring” subject to them. How about making the learning process a bit more fun? You can try to create some kind of competition, or game, that can help them to learn, or maybe even use songs or videos. Sometimes, even a funny cartoon can be what you need to make them have a laugh and never forget the subject.
3 – Show the relevance to their future careers
Students think that, at the end of the day, they are at school so they can get ready to get good jobs in the future. This is how most of the people (parents included) see school nowadays, unfortunately. So take advantage of it, and try to relate your subject to how it can be applied in a work environment. Tell them all about how doctors, engineers, IT developers, writers or dancers can use that information to become successful.
4 – Let them participate in the whole process
If you want to see your students really engaged about something, let them participate. And not only after you distribute the tasks but from the very beginning. Ask them for input on the subject that will be presented, which resources will be used and how they will be evaluated. And talking of resources…
5 – Use multiple resources
To avoid students’ sleeping on their desks during your presentation, try using multiple resources. The human voice can be very hypnotizing to some people, and others are easy distracted by it, as you know. Bring videos, music, slideshows, toys and games, tell stories, bring in a special guest for a talk.
6 – Make it personal
Try to relate the subject to your own life and circumstances. You don’t necessarily have to tell a private story about yourself, but tell them something about how you felt when you got in touch with that subject for the very first time, or how you have applied it in your life so far.
7 – Leave the exams for later
Do not start the conversation about the new subject telling them about a test on the material. Unless the assessment will be more engaging and fun (think Project Base Learning, inquiry learning, etc), this should be the final part of the process and not a source of anxiety.
8 – Change the environment
Sitting in a classroom for a whole day is hardly anyone’s ideal day, especially if you are young and full of energy.
So why not move the class to a different environment and see how it affects their learning process? Try taking them to museums, beaches, for a nature walk, or even to the school’s backyard. Even the fresh air on their face might help to keep them alert and more interested.
9 – Make it achievable
If you scare them by saying that this is a very complex subject and that they will be in trouble if they don’t manage to learn it, you are bound to fail. Students usually overreact under pressure and don't see these messages as a challenge at all. Try to take steps that help them feel they are capable of learning the material.
10 – Understand their interests
And in order to make any of the tips above work, it is mandatory that you know your students’ interests. If you know about their hobbies and goals, you may be able to better relate the subject to their lives.
Getting the best from your students might not be easy – but we should try to achieve it all the time, ‘boring’ subjects included. Remember that things have changed and what worked for you might not work for a class of children or teenagers nowadays. They have different demands and have to live up to new expectations, so be prepared to understand them and offer the best class you can.