I was trying to teach a unit on directions. We were supposed to be learning location words, prepositions, learning to give and receive locations. My kids were NOT interested. This class loves to be together. They love to talk, joke, chat and tease. They love to get off topic, create drama and laugh. Have you every had one of those classes? I needed to be strategic in my lesson plan.
The first two days I gave it the direct approach: pull out your books, open to page blah blah blah… It was as exciting as it sounds. Disrespectfully (and yet a little understandably) they tuned me out. I knew what I had to do.
There are three keys to make a lesson grab the attention and imagination of a chatty class: add personalization, risk, and reward.
Here’s how it worked for us:
I wanted to teach them how to give and receive directions. The map in the book held no interest to them so we made our own map.
1. Personalization: I gave each of the students their own house which we added to our “town.” All the kids were given jobs and places of employment which we also added to the picture. Their attention level shot up. Now we have a shoe store, a gas station, a bank, and a department store. I asked them to name their businesses. Now the lesson was becoming personal.
2. Risk: I told them that someone was going to make more money…Soon they were asking for more vocabulary words so they could navigate the map, throw up road construction to sabotage each other’s businesses, make more money, build larger houses, and take over the town. Now there was risk.
3. Reward: They student with the most money or biggest house or the last man standing, won. Each lesson might have a different reward. It isn’t necessary to have an actual, physical prize. There’s nothing like the thrill of the win to encourage learning. Now we have reward.
Students learn best what is relevant. Making a lesson personal, risky and rewarding will create intrinsic motivation and they might even forget they’re learning! Use your imagination.
I would love to hear your experiences. How have you adjusted a lesson to make it personal to your students?