by Ms. Caron – 3rd Grade at NSCS Lynn Campus
There are many joys of teaching. As a new teacher, I am surprised at just how much satisfaction and happiness it brings me to be in the field of education. However, every teacher, new or old, from pre-K to high school, has faced the dreaded moment. The moment when your student’s faces begin to dull and their bodies begin to droop. You can see their brains shutting down and their ears shutting off. In a matter of minutes you’re not even sure if they’re all awake. This moment faces most teachers daily! But how do you teach the not-so-exciting part of the curriculum while making sure your students stay not only conscious but also intrigued for all of the lessons?
I have found this to be a challenge I could not back down from. How do I keep my students engaged, alert, and interested in the lessons they would rather sleep through? While there is no easy fix for this, I have found a strategy that works for me and has plenty of research to back it up. If we want students to care, to engage, and to truly absorb the material, we have to make our lessons meaningful enough for them to be able to make real life connections. We must bring learning to life!
There are countless ways to make this goal possible. Every teacher knows their students best and how to make connections that are meaningful to them. In my classroom, I have found that hands-on activities help to make learning meaningful to my students. Projects they can take pride in and take home to their families seem to make the concept much more graspable than a series of endless papers stapled together for them to complete. In October, my students were grouped into teams and assigned the task of making a Native American Longhouse. We first went outside where they were instructed to collect anything they thought could help construct their longhouse. Students collected sticks, leaves, and rocks to help make the longhouse appear more real. They then used other construction paper, Popsicle, sticks, and felt to draft and model what they wanted their longhouse to look like. When the students got around to building and completing their longhouses, they could tell me more information about the Wampanoag culture and way of living than the curriculum even taught!
While I did find this project to be much more meaningful to students than written work, I do not want to overlook the importance of independent work and simple paper writing. This is essential for student learning. However, there are many ways to make learning meaningful beyond a project or assignment that requires much preparation and work. Something as simple as taking the time to stop and allow students to make appropriate connections to the lesson can be extremely beneficial. It may seem at times tedious and a time killer, but this is a simple way for students to make real life and personal connections to the material, without doing anything extravagant or time consuming.
Finding ways to connect with your students and zone in on what interests them and brings their excitement level high is key to teaching. No teacher wants a group of sleeping 10 year olds in the middle of a math lesson. Bringing learning to life can be challenging but will be in the end the reason students remember a certain lesson or concept simply because you took the time to wake them up and engage them in a way that they will never forget.