Many people don’t realize how tricky it can be for teachers to find new, unique ways to present lesson plans to students. It’s a delicate balance between informing and engaging, and some material can be especially tricky to make interesting. If you’re in need of some new ideas to make your class a place students can’t wait to go to, here are a few strategies to try.
Let students role play
It’s people who make history, whether it’s in the math, science, political, or literary world. Assign students a famous person from history—it can be from 200 years ago or even someone who’s made important strides in recent years—and let them present an oral report, but here’s the catch: they have to actually assume the identity of that person for the presentation! It’s a great way to add a little creativity to any subject, and for some students, it could help make the material easier to grasp. Your class might have trouble relating to a mathematician from the early twentieth century, long before calculators and computers did so much of the work for us, but taking the time to learn about them as an actual person could pique their interest.
Invite a guest speaker
Even if your students adore you, there’s always something exciting about a fresh face at the front of the classroom. Invite a guest speaker to come speak to your class about a topic they have unique perspective on: perhaps your grandmother was an avid protester in the civil rights movement, or your neighbor used to work for NASA. It can even be another teacher! If you’re having trouble finding someone who can physically be in class, ask if they’d be willing to video chat with your class instead.
Have a debate
If your students love to argue, make that the assignment! Give your students a topic and two choices for how to argue it. For example, a literature class might debate the interpretation of a certain chapter of their reading, or a science class could argue different ideas about converting from fossil fuels to clean energy. You can let students choose which side they’re on, or instead challenge them to argue against what their initial instinct is. You can have different topics for pairs of students or break the class up into groups. Make sure their arguments are backed up appropriately, and when the debate is on, allow both sides follow-ups and rebuttals.
Tie in a familiar element
It’s often easier for students to understand information if they can easily apply it to their own lives. If your history class is discussing the development of the assembly line, have them come up with a list of all the items we currently make through this method. For heredity and gene lessons in science, you can take a class poll to see what kind of dogs your students have and any particularly special traits they might have: one green eye and one brown eye, unique markings, or even a curled tail. Discuss what characteristics their pup’s parents may have had to lead to that trait, and how its siblings may have looked.
When it comes to teaching, you don’t have to settle for the ordinary. Try shaking up your classroom with these strategies!
Joyce Wilson loved being a teacher, and though she has recently retired, she hasn’t lost that passion. She continues to educate (and help educators) by mentoring teachers in her area. She is also the co-creator of TeacherSpark.org, a resource for teachers to gather fun, engaging lesson ideas and activities.