Education

6 ways to get students interested in your topic

When you are writing a lesson plan, the first step is usually to choose a theme or topic. Then, you can use some tried and true methods to get your students interested in that topic. Here are six ways to keep students engaged during the lesson:

1. Make it relevant to their lives

The easiest way to get students interested in your topic is to make it relevant to their lives. Many teachers like to integrate outside research into the classroom, and this can be a perfect jumping-off point for introducing current events or topics of interest. If you’re teaching about immigration, you could discuss the implications that high rates of immigration will have on American society and economy as well as traditional classroom content (economic theory, etc.). You could even prompt students by setting the subject matter at a level they’re already familiar with: “Who remembers what we learned about California’s Proposition 187 last year? How do you think this legislation might impact education?” This can give them an opportunity to connect simple lessons from social science to real-world context they understand, and it also gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.

2. Build it into your teaching apparatus

If you want students to get interested in a topic outside of your classroom, try building it into some part of your teaching apparatus. A great way to do this is by assigning homework that relates back to what you’re teaching in class; some teachers require that homework be related specifically to material covered in the same day’s lesson while others allow their students more leeway. You can also build interest through group or independent projects: students could work together on a project about immigration statistics and demographic trends over time, or each member of the class could compile his or her own list based on an assigned “topic of the day.”

3. Use it as the context for difficult material

If you have a topic that your students find particularly boring or daunting, try building it into your lesson plan by using it to introduce the necessary background knowledge for understanding another topic. This works especially well when a complex subject can be restated in simple terms for a young audience: many teachers use gravity and the Earth’s rotation to explain why things fall instead of trying to teach Newtonian physics from scratch. You could also choose an interesting aspect of a less-familiar concept and work backwards from there: “Plate Tectonics causes earthquakes, but how do earthquakes relate to volcanoes?” In this case, you’re not only helping students understand one element of your standard curriculum, but you’re also providing a more accessible way to understand a complex concept.

4. Get them invested in the process

In order for students to get interested in something, they have to be able to make it their own. One way to do this is by giving your students an opportunity to contribute something meaningful or personal to each lesson; if students feel like they’ve added value beyond the bare minimum expectations of classroom participation, they’ll be more likely to stay engaged and motivated throughout the process. Even if you never allow them enough time for hands-on application during class hours, you can still give projects or assignments that foster independent research outside of your class periods. You could even assign group tasks that give all members ample opportunity for involvement: rather than having one group presentation, for example, you could have each member of a three-student group give a brief report on different aspects of the subject matter.

5. Build in time for questions and reflection

The best way to get students interested in a lesson is to make sure they have ample time to actually think about it. A good starting point here is by carving out breaks throughout your class periods so that students can process what’s happening between lessons; even if these are only five minutes long, you’ll find that putting up some sort of visual prompt (a whiteboard or blackboard with today’s date) will help direct their attention towards relevant material while also reminding them that the lesson will continue soon. You can also build more reflection into your lesson plan: if the topic is something that doesn’t lend itself well to hands-on applications, write in a few extra minutes at the end of class for students to share their thoughts with one another. You can even have them turn in an assignment or two every so often to give yourself a chance to evaluate what you’re teaching and how well it’s being absorbed by your audience.

6. Gauge student interest throughout the semester

If you want your students interested in what you’re teaching, then you need to take a proactive approach towards making sure that they have everything they need from beginning to end. One way that teachers do this is by changing up lessons periodically throughout a semester, tailoring each lesson to be more interesting than the last. This works especially well when the constant change means that students will never feel like they’ve mastered the material completely: by constantly learning something new, your students will stay invested in each lesson you teach. You can also try building up momentum over time so that each concept builds on the one before it; while this is more applicable to subjects with a logical sequence, it’s a good way to move from the basics of a topic towards something more complex.

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