Imagine having a classroom of eager, young people who are there because they want to be, not because they are obliged to be … who do what’s expected of them because they enjoy it, not because of a threat of discipline … who are eager to learn, not just occupying space in a room. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many classrooms today. However, by focusing on the following three suggestions, you can take the first steps to create lessons that produce better results for both students and teachers.
1. Structure experiences to apply to life outside of school: Theory is important, but interest will increase the more you tie it into practice by showing how the learning makes life easier and better. Share how the content will help students make better decisions, solve more problems, get along better with others, and make them more effective. Have a poster and re-emphasize the following wisdom: “Wise people think long-term, not just for today.”
2. Offer choices: Regardless of age, everyone likes to feel control over one’s own life. When we can make choices, we feel we have that control. Offer a choice of activities—and that includes home assignments. By providing two, three, or even four activities and letting students choose among them, you give them an opportunity to select something that engenders motivation.
3. Use variety: A myriad of visual techniques can be employed including charts; cartoons; selected parts of films, videocassettes, and/or DVDs; PowerPoint creations; and overhead transparencies. Dressing the part of a character (teacher and/or student) qualifies.
A myriad of audio techniques can be used such as playing music, recording music, rapping, creating verse—or anything that has rhythm. Remember how you learned your ABC’s? “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is the tune for “the alphabet song.”
A myriad of kinesthetic techniques can be used. Examples are drawing the spelling of a word in the air, standing in a small group rocking together to feel seasick on the boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean as immigrants, and just giving a high five to get attention.
Other approaches include large group discussions, case studies, and relating personal experiences to a learning buddy on the topic.
Another technique is to use handouts for students to complete during the presentation. This activity keeps them involved and also gives them something they can refer to later. This simple technique also allows you to cover more material in less time.
These three techniques, while simple, can go a long way to increasing interest, reducing discipline, and making learning a lot more fun.