One of the most difficult hurdles teachers face is motivating students to care about what they are learning. Even the brightest and most diligent students can begin to act apathetically when they feel like the skills taught in school have no value in the real world.
As teachers, we know that with each new lesson, students are developing skills in deductive reasoning, problem solving, and generalizing. But, even this truth does not often adequately motivate students to work hard and enjoy their homework or projects. So, how can we engage students better and teach them the value of the lessons we teach? One of the best ways for motivating students is by connecting lessons to real life.
Here are 3 ways for motivating students through real-world connections:
Incorporate Real Life Examples into Each Lesson
If students can clearly see how the skill or knowledge being taught is used in the workplace or in life situations, they will be more likely to spend the energy to master it or at least increase their interest. As teachers, we can do this simply by offering solid examples of the skill being used in the workplace or real world. For instance, when assigning a persuasive essay, an English teacher could find an example of a small business loan request and discuss how the entrepreneurs are using persuasive writing skills in the endeavor. In a chemistry class, a teacher could discuss the chemical transformation of carbohydrates in relation to cooking a favorite meal. If you aren’t sure how exactly the lesson you’re teaching relates to a job skill or life situation, try googling it or asking a fellow teacher who has taught that class previously.
Help Students Apply Principles through a Project of their Choice
According to teaching experts at Carnegie Mellon University, a great way to enhance student motivation is to allow students to choose topics for papers and projects that connect the course content to their outside interests and passions. Continuing from the example mentioned above in a persuasive essay lesson, the students could “create” their own small business and write a persuasive essay with the intention of getting a loan. This way, you are motivating students by helping them think about something they are interested in and they are applying their new skills in an exciting way. For every project you assign, try to give your students at least one choice that allows them to connect the activity to something they enjoy or are passionate about.
Invite a Guest Speaker from KidTeacher.org to Talk about their Profession
One of the most inspiring experiences for students is hearing first-hand how the lessons they are learning in school are valuable to a career. If you are teaching a high school marketing class, invite an account manager at a marketing firm to discuss campaigns and client relations. Or maybe you are an elementary teacher wanting to stress the importance of healthy eating to your class. Bring in a personal trainer or health coach as a guest speaker and ask them to share their experiences as they work with adults who want to get healthy. These lessons are extremely memorable for students and even inspire them to choose their future career path.
KidTeacher is proud to be a resource for teachers. Our goal is to organize a database of professionals who are willing to speak to classrooms about their various career experiences, assisting teachers in supplementing their lesson plans. You may register as a teacher here, begin viewing volunteer profiles, and invite them to come speak to your classroom.