Here are 5 easy ways to make any topic relevant to the students in your class:
The integration of the current social context into a subject encourages students to move away from seeing the learning as far removed from their lives. Could you start the lesson by talking about a recent news item (and showing them the story in a newspaper) or a relevant current real-life issue that this particular age group are interested in or affected by?
By taking the curriculum out into the real world and showing how knowledge can be used in their own environment we give the learning immediate relevance. Could you start the lesson by linking content to a photograph of their town centre, a newspaper article about their neighbourhood, a news video about a local event or even by taking them out into the community?
In Chapter 5 on building relationships, we looked at the importance of discovering and getting to know your students’ interests and hobbies. Linking content to young people’s interests is one of the best ways for them to see the importance of a topic, but even in the absence of detailed personal information about each student there are common areas which will be of interest to most – for example, sport, fashion, celebrities, music, gore/horror, any current Xbox/PS4 game, recent blockbuster films and popular TV shows or a place they all congregate at night (local park/mall).
Adolescence can be a very troubling time, with most teenagers encountering issues that they find confusing and difficult. When learning is linked to topics which the students may be experiencing first hand, such as gangs/gang culture, drugs/alcohol, self-confidence, and low self-esteem, they are more likely to empathise and therefore more able to see the relevance of what is being presented.
Metaphors and analogies are one of the very best ways of making new concepts relevant to students because they draw parallels between the new information and previously known, commonplace or everyday objects, happenings or actions. I use metaphors and analogies a lot in my teaching to describe processes, actions, and concepts – virtually anything, in fact – because they give students an easy way to grasp and understand new material. You could say it’s like turning a light on for them or providing them with a map. Get it?
There is an easy way to come up with a metaphor for virtually anything you’re teaching. Just ask yourself a simple question, ‘What is it like?’ and pick the answer which you feel would be most relevant to your students. For exam- ple, diffusion (the spread of particles from regions of higher concentration to regions of lower concentration) is a difficult concept to explain to students, so let’s ask the question:‘What is it like?’
Any one of those analogies could be used to describe the process of diffusion in a way that students who had no concept of the process could relate to; but for some reason, most of my students find analogy (3) easiest to understand.
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