Have you ever found yourself in front of the classroom teaching a lesson and your voice fills with excitement? You are excited because you just know your students are going to understand this lesson. You know this because you’ve planned and prepared every step of the lesson from the teaching point to the wrap up.
As you look around the classroom to complete a quick assessment by all the faces looking back at you; the euphoria begins to dissipate as you witness complete looks of confusion. All the sense of assurance you had crumbles when you realize, one by one, 80% of your students did not learn anything you taught. Somewhere between “ Ok boys and girls…today we… and “Does everyone understand?” you’ve lost them. Well 80% of them and that’s a large enough number to be sufficiently concerned ,
At this point you have three choices:
- break into song… “The hills are alive…” my personal favorite but never a good thing if its not music class.
- throw in the towel (not an option because we are super teachers) or
acknowledge that perhaps those students (and the amount is rising) learn by doing.
Fast forward from Aristotle’s time and we have Project-based and Problem-based learning
So how do you engage your students while teaching a lesson?
As a novice teacher I took the advice of my uncle (a Marines sergeant) after asking about maintaining classroom discipline. He asked if I was doing any hands-on activities that will engage them. I was experiencing many behavior problems in my early years of teaching. What he said made sense.
With my uncle’s advice in my head, determination straighten my back and I began researching everything I could about keeping students engaged. I read about experiential learning, project-based learning, problem-based learning and brain based learning.
What I have learned
Giving students projects to complete for most, if not all subjects is a way for students to:
- take responsibility for their learning,
- acquire a deeper understanding for real world challenges through active learning,
- gain skills such as investigative, problem-solving and critical thinking.
Giving projects helps teachers:
- step out of the box of ‘traditional teaching’,
- Use an alternative method for assessment; you can assess a student on multiple areas and standards,
And best of all,
- The students have a memorable, learning experience where that ‘teachable’ moment morphed into a ‘teachable’ lesson.
The students are depending on you to induce mindful thinking and to introduce them to the world.