“‘Why do I have to read/think about/know this?’ is a place at which education can begin, if we answer the question authentically, or, even better, if we ask them to answer it for us. If we show interest in their theories, they might become curious about ours, and together, we might be able to make some learning happen.”
When I teach new concepts, I try to always share with the students reasons why they need to learn them. I have learned over the years that if I can’t show relevance, the students don’t seem the value of learning and remembering what I’m trying to teach them. Sometimes the relevance may be that it will be on some standardized test and the school district wants them to do well on it. It may not be a good reason but it is a reason for learning something. Other times I tell my students that they need to know something so that they can use it to get a good job and not end up on welfare which I pay for out of my taxes. I am not trying to offend any of them if they are on welfare but I want them to see that they have options when they have knowledge. In fact, if I can’t show relevance, why am I wasting my time?
Yet, I never thought about having them come up with theories about why they need to learn something. The students may actually see a reason that I hadn’t seen. Allowing their input will help them problem solve which is another useful skill. Plus, not everyone offers reasons for new learning so this would be a great exercise in trying to figure out the reason rather than just giving up and assuming there is no reason. Just because the reason for learning is not handed to them on a silver platter doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
I think it would be fun to talk about the new skill, concept, or assignment. Then have them break into small groups for 5 minutes and have them come up with reasons why they are doing this lesson. Each group shares their best answer. You might give a reward for the correct answer and the most creative answer. By doing this, you are encouraging students to think outside the box.
How do you teach relevance of a new lesson? Please share.