Making Good Teaching Great: Everyday Strategies for Teaching with Impact by Annette Breaux, and Todd Whitaker, is filled with 180 daily activities and strategies designed to integrate seamlessly into any day of the school year. This tip, from Day 126, is designed to answer the question, "Why do we have to know this?" before your students even ask.
Think About It
"Why do we have to know this?" Students ask this question on a regular basis. Whenever the question is asked, it should be a red flag to the teacher that he or she has not made the connection between the skill being taught and the student's actual life experiences and reality.
If you were a student, to which lesson would you relate?
- A lesson about pronouns where you learn that a pronoun takes the place of a noun and then you practice finding pronouns in sentences and underlining them.
- A lesson where you are asked to tell something about yourself without using any of the words on the board (which are all pronouns).
Here's another example. To which do you think students would more favorably respond?
- A worksheet with problems where students have to determine the area of given rectangles.
- Getting into a group and determining the area of a rectangular bulletin board and then using that information to tell the teacher how much paper they will need to cover the board that they will then decorate?
We won't insult you by giving you the answers. The bottom line is that students want to learn when they see that what they are learning is relevant!
Look at the concepts you are teaching today and ask yourself, How am I ensuring that the students know how this concept relates to their lives? Oh, and by the way, you want to relate the concept to their lives today as opposed to their futures. To tell a student, "You need to know this because it will help you get a job one day" is basically pointless. So relate what you teach to their real lives TODAY.
Making it real has tremendous appeal. If your students understand why they learn what they learn, motivation will increase and better grades they'll earn.