What are you eating in your classroom? What TV shows are you discussing? How long is your commute to school?
These questions may seem unimportant to teachers, but they might be the silver bullets that bring relevance to any lesson.
According to Denis Sheeran, math teacher and author of Instant Relevance: Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons, in order to engage with all of today’s learners, teachers must make lessons relevant.
Sheeran says that we can use sudden changes to our environment to create relevance?
For example, during a snow day, Sheeran’s daughter observed that her father must have shoveled “a ton of snow”. Sheeran contemplated the possibility that he could have actually moved more than 2,000 pounds of frozen precipitation.
So, he and his precocious daughter applied some math. You’ll be shocked by exactly how much snow Sheeran hauled that day (find out in Episode 57 of the Hack Learning Podcast embedded above).
More important, Sheeran explains, teachers can easily apply environmental factors to learning to bring instant relevance to students.
What you can do tomorrow
Any teacher in any subject or grade can immediately make learning relevant. Here’s what Sheeran suggests you do tomorrow to integrate relevance:
1 — Ask yourself, “What do my kids care about?” Consider how to apply their interests to your lesson. For example, Sheeran says that world events like the Olympics and a presidential election have a wide array of opportunities for learning across subject areas and grades.
2 — Talk to your students. Use journaling or surveys to explore student interest. This makes it easy for teachers to access what’s important to individuals.
3 — Group students according to interest areas. This will inspire like-minded students to engage in discussion and collaborate in ways that accentuate relevance in your lessons.
If teachers and schools continue to see themselves as that holder of the keys of knowledge. . . students are quickly going to find school irrelevant. -Denis Sheeran
Connect with our guest
Denis Sheeran is the Supervisor of Mathematics, grades K – 12 in Chatham, NJ, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at County College of Morris and a nationwide speaker and professional development consultant.
Contact Denis on his website www.denissheeran.com or on twitter @MathDenisNJ and visit daveburgessconsulting.com to request speaking or PD from Denis. Don’t miss Instant Relevance: Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons.
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Author: Mark Barnes
Mark Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 140,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.