Teaching in a classroom often comes from prescribed curricula and textbook material. We teachers rely on lesson plans that help us ensure that all the required material is covered within the semester. Thankfully, we also are encouraged to tinker with our lesson plans to incorporate fun activities so that students really engage with the subject.
There is always scope for tweaking the assignments we give our students or even our in-class exercises to help them relate better to out-of-the-classroom subjects that they deal with in everyday life. The opportunities for these kinds of activities occur more so in language classes, especially ESL courses, where we are required to incorporate the teaching of culture along with the structure and vocabulary of a language.
As teachers, it is our responsibility to make use of these opportunities to get our students invest more of themselves in each class project so that their learning becomes more personal, and thus, more memorable to them. More importantly, this helps students think outside the box.
Here are a few methods that worked wonders with my students.
Beginning the class with a short activity
I often start my classes with a short activity that connects with the topic I am going to teach. This activity helps immensely in triggering students’ knowledge about the subject and also prepping them for the topic at hand. I try to make these activities especially fun and engaging so that my students are focused. Playing a song that is closely related to the story/novel we’re discussing in class and asking students to interpret an abstract image have worked wonders for me.
Challenge students’ accepted notions
The great thing about English classes is that they encourage student expression if done right. I try to coax my more rebellious students into contributing more meaningfully by sharing a bit of themselves. One of my most successful argumentative essay assignments was about the validity of hip-hop as poetry. I had the pleasure of reading and grading many passionate papers arguing both for and against this claim, and I got to learn more about hip-hop than I could ever imagine. The most rewarding result was that some of my struggling students participated actively and made sure their arguments were heard.
Give and set clear examples
As teachers, when we clearly let students know that we are open to new ideas in class, we automatically signal to them that they are encouraged, nay, expected to get creative as well. To give them an additional boost, I also set group projects whenever possible in which I give free rein to students to represent their topic/theme in a manner they see fit. The emphasis here is on creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. I also list some of the projects students from previous years have done to give my class clear, illustrative examples of what they can do. I also set ground rules and hand them detailed rubrics well in advance so that they don’t let their creativity get out of hand. One of the most memorable such projects in my class was an amusement park designed in depict Dante’s 9 circles of hell.
These are just some ideas but there are lots more. With the help of the internet and the expertise of other teachers, we can always do more to encourage out-of-the-box thinking from out students and help them relate their lessons more to their everyday life. What methods have worked best for you? Share them in the comments below.