Many teachers enter the field of education with great ideas about transforming the student body, with thoughtful curriculums and detailed lesson plans on which they’ve worked very hard, only to find that some of their pupils don’t respond. Engagement and a desire to learn is key to teaching anything, but morale is not always there. Here are a few tips for bringing your classroom to life, at any grade-level, that will encourage your students to be involved in the process, rather than just listening to lectures.
- Make It Relevant
You may have seen stories in the news like the school in London which banned the use of slang in the classroom. While I think teachers have the right to decide what can and cannot be said in the classroom, I also believe there is a way to use what students like to make a point of your own. Children want to know how what they’re learning is important to their daily lives, and they also want to know you understand where they’re coming from. It builds a relationship of trust and comfort rather than distance. Certainly there is a time and place for everything, so your students should still be wary of the differences between the streets and the classroom, but not everything that’s “hip” is bad, albeit different.
- Set Goals
Additionally, give students something to work toward. At the beginning of each lesson, set clear objectives for what you want to teach them, and steps for how you plan to get there. Post these steps somewhere that it can be seen by everyone in the room, and track progress accordingly, so the kids can visualize their progress as something tangible and attainable.
- Reward Success
If you want to take that concept to the next level, set up a reward system to further encourage students to reach those milestones. This doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly each time; you can save the pizza parties or special outings for major events, to make the distinction. Yet the rewards can be as simple as bonus test points or some other method of recognition to get the kids in the habit of associating achievement with good things.
- Share Some Autonomy
Make teaching a little democratic. You can be in charge and still create opportunities for your students to choose which book to read, or the type of test they prefer, etc. It’s no secret that people are more likely to engage in something of their own choosing. Besides, it puts them in the mindset of making decisions for themselves, a great transferrable skill to have and develop.
- Encourage Friendly Competition
Science is clear, humans are competitive by nature. Use that to you advantage in the classroom. Create teams (be sure to mix it up based on ability, so that one team does not have an advantage over the other, and to encourage team building) and allow students to compete with certain projects or progress for lessons. This may be better for higher grade levels; use your judgment before implementing this with younger children.