How would your students rate your ability to engage them in the learning process? This one measure of how you connect with students will determine how you perform in all aspects of your duties as a teacher – lesson plans, behavioral management techniques, collaboration in the classroom, and ability to create a safe and supportive learning environment.
Before students apply this all-important measure to you, evaluate how effectively you use real-life connections in the classroom to increase engagement.
Is The Golden Measure of Teaching Engagement?
The positive link between student engagement and academic achievement is so strong that Canada’s annual student engagement survey has become an international standard. The results of this hard measurement of your ability to connect with your students are not only used in teacher evaluations but also in:
- developing curriculums
- delivering lessons
- implementing classroom management strategies
- determining class size, and
- allocating technology and other resources.
Highly rated teachers use real-life connections in the classroom to make the learning experience fun, engaging, and meaningful to optimize engagement and learning. This involves moving away from lecture-based lessons and making lessons interesting and interactive.
Make Learning Fun
Your lessons plans should inspire creativity, imagination, and the motivation to pursue self-initiated learning in the student. To this end, the following points are all interconnected. They all have the same objective – engaging the student. Making learning fun and meaningful for students requires developing different strategies for each grade level. A high school teacher requires different strategies from an elementary school teacher to keep the attention of restless teenagers.
Make Learning Meaningful
The lessons a teacher implements should have relevance to a student’s life. If they can’t see the point in learning a topic or are totally uninterested in it, they won’t sit quietly and attentively, patiently waiting to be filled with knowledge. At the start of any topic or lesson, you need to give your students as many reasons as possible for listening to what you’re about to tell them. When you give them enough reasons as to why they need to hear something, there is more chance they will listen.
There’s no point in just rambling on about a topic, expecting them to want to learn it. If your answer to the question “Why do we have to listen to this?” is “Because it’s on the exam” or “Because I say so” then you have a disinterested class.
Explaining why a lesson is meaningful is particularly important to science teachers, math teachers, and those teaching other complex topics. With media, technology and mobile apps, it has never been easier to connect lessons with real life examples. If students can’t see the point in learning a topic they will soon switch off. They’ll get bored, stop listening, act out or break the rules. The way to avoid bored students is to ask yourself the same question while you are developing a lesson plan – Why do students need to learn this?
Involve Students in Lesson Development
Once you’ve prepared a few constructive reasons why the lesson is important, you can then put the question to the group at the start of the lesson.
Avoid simply telling students why the information is relevant to them – get them to come up with the answers themselves. This will increase engagement because learning the material will make perfect sense. Moreover, you are empowering the students – the main pathway to engagement. Students are now involved in structuring the lesson based on objectives they have identified. Some teachers make the mistake of equating engagement with alternative teaching methods. In fact, structured lesson plans minimize student boredom.
It’s a sad fact that a lot of the information provided in some schools is of little practical use to a broad sector of the student population – particularly with the less academic students who are less likely to progress into further education. For this reason, you need to be able to develop lessons meet student interests, with their help.
Bring the Real World Into the Classroom
Students will engage more deeply in structuring lessons if the classroom material relates to their real world/everyday life. Always strive for high practical relevance. Students need to be shown concrete examples and see how academic topics relate to them; thus making the concepts less abstract and scary.
You can talk about your experiences, bring up current events or ask students to talk about family values or beliefs. Current events are not only tools for Social Studies teachers! Incorporate guest speakers to bring a face to the subject and demonstrate how children can apply what they have learned in the classroom to real life or a potential future career. Field trips are among the creative ways to energize and engage students to optimize learning.
Media is the main tool used by teachers to bring the real world into the classroom. With the help of YouTube, streaming videos, podcasts, and news feeds, it is much easier to bring the material to life and gain the students’ interest. Students can satiate their natural curiosities by researching related topics via the Internet. You may also want to use national or international online news networks to discover topics of interest and open the classroom to the wider world. Leverage social media to make their interactions with the real world interactive. They can add comments to articles, and tweet and blog their opinions on global and local issues. Seeing their comments read by thousands, and having others respond – possibly from across the globe – will empower them!
Make a Real – Life Connection Through Technology
Employ Gamification in the Classroom
Gamification is the latest buzzword for saying, incorporating games into lessons. Depending on the grade level you teach, it can be hard to get certain students interested in current events. If the topic does not include movies, games, or pop stars, you may be hard pressed to grab students’ attention. Encouraging students to be active, mentally and physically, is the best way to make a real world connection.
You can find games, interactive lessons plans, and many other teacher educational resources to make real-life connections in the classroom to increase engagement online.
There are many ways to relate your lessons and activities to the real world to increase student retention, student motivation, and interest in subject matter while maximizing learning opportunities. Using a real-life connection into lessons will dramatically reduce classroom management challenges because engagement will increase. Iff students have an interest in learning something they are less likely to act out.
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