We are another week closer to summer, but again, there is still quite a bit of school left! If you’re finding yourself or your students shutting down, don’t give up! Although there may need to be a shift in focus, you can do this!
In the last blog, we talked about the first strategy of re-engaging: movement. You can find that blog here.
Now, we are moving to the second strategy- Reconnect to the relevancy of the content. Why are you teaching this content? Why are the students learning this content? Does it build on other content they will need to know moving into next year? How is it relevant to their current life?
I know this isn’t always easy to do. Let’s look at a few examples:
Social Studies – you’re studying the history and geography of the Middle East – why? How is this important to students? Could you put them into the time period you are discussing? What decisions would they make? How would they feel if they were the people group overtaking another group? How would they feel if they were the people group being overtaken? How does the economy today affect the US economy. How would their life be different if….
Science – You’re studying photosynthesis – why? How is this relevant to 7th graders? How can you connect this to them as opposed to just giving them a cycle to remember. What happens if this cycle is disrupted? How would that affect their day to day? How do plants play a role in their day to day?
ELA – the students are doing novel study or research – why? How does that novel relate to them? What can they learn from the character? Is there a character they connect with, and how? How does the character’s decision making affect the events in the story, and how does our decision making affect the events in our life? If the novel isn’t relevant, why are they reading it? If they are doing research, why? Is what they are researching relevant to their lives?
Lastly, math- they are learning about the pythagorean theorem – why? To become problem solvers? To be able to measure out angles when they are building something? To think critically? Are the word problems you are using relevant to them? Are the examples connecting to what they already know?
The last coaching sessions I did with Clarity focused on differentiation, and one key piece of differentiation is connecting the context to the students. The context includes the examples you use, articles they read, text and books they read, videos you watch – anything that you can wrap the skill or concept in that you are teaching. The more they connect to the context, the easier they will be able to understand the new learning or concept. I gave the example of teaching fractions using an apple pie. Well, if your students haven’t had a homemade apple pie, will they be able to learn fractions with a picture of an apple pie? Probably. But will that context be a sticking point in their mind for when they are recalling fractions – probably not. How much more impactful if we have context that’s relevant to them? How do we know what context to use? We ask them! We get to know our students. We let them choose the text or article when possible. We find out what connects with them, and then we do our best to wrap that context around the content.
So let me tell you what doesn’t re-engage students right now…worksheet after worksheet of “test prep”. I’m not against “test-prep” in that I think a review of content is hugely important and helpful. In fact, we have a whole 3 part mini-course called Stress Down, Scores Up! that I’m making available for free in in the post however you are getting this information – but we can’t lose sight of best practice and relevancy in our instruction – even if it is a review. Click on that course to get some engaging ideas for preparing the students for the language and formatting of the test, while steering clear of practice test after practice test!
This is a tough time of year, but you’re tougher! Stay in the game! It’s the fourth quarter (shout out to my Baylor Bears – NCAA Champions) – and you’ve got to be intentional about finishing strong!
Here’s a little humor to get you through…
You’ve been rock stars this year! If we can help guide your campus to cultural responsiveness in the 2021/2022 school year, we’d be honored to partner with you! Reach out at www.pressing-onward.org!