Back-to-School: Connecting School to Children’s Special Interests – Teacher’s Corner

Teacher’s Corner
School should connect to children’s special interests and what they are good at. This connection can not only improve engagement but also increase learning because children can see how concepts apply to real life situations.
For example:
Math can connect to building things, bugs, animals, musical scales, robots, sports performance, etc.
Children can learn about almost any special interest through reading. Therefore, giving them opportunities to read about their interests at the level of their ability can motivate them and increase their reading skills.
Parent demonstration sessions about how to effectively read with and to children can be very useful.  Parents can use libraries and librarians to find special interest magazines and books for their kids to read at home. If parents read with them, it has added value because it leads to parents knowing their children better and to children feeling their parents are interested in what’s important to them. 
Getting along with other people is a connection for all children in school, preschool, and daycare. This connections can be enhanced when teachers talk about the ways that  getting along has helped them do things they love to do (cooking, playing sports, going to movies, riding bikes, etc.). 
Science can connect to cooking, climate concerns, the solar system, etc.
The following are writing prompts and discussion topics you can use with your students about connecting school to their special interests and talents.
  1. Explain how one of your subjects at school connects to a special interest or talent you have. For example, students interested in a sport might connect math to understanding the stats that apply to their sport. Another student might connect science to an interest in cooking.
  2. Imagine you had friends who played musical instruments. What advice would you give them about how what they learn at school can connect to their music?
  3. What are two things you think teachers could do to connect what they are teaching to the special interests and talents of their students.

Teachers, you can use this blog in classrooms. Here are two ideas about how.

  1. For middle or high school parenting or child development courses:
    • Use the blog for discussion topics
    • Require students to research the topics and agree or disagree with what the blog is suggesting.
  2. For all courses, especially English Language Arts:
  • Use the blog for writing prompts for paragraphs, theme papers, journal entries, class starters, etc. Have students read the blog and respond to:
  • Do you agree with what is being said about kids? Do kids really act, think or feel that way?
  • Do you agree with what is being said about parents, grandparents, teachers and child caregivers? Do or should they act, think or feel that way?
  • What would be your advice on this topic?
  • What was left out of this article?
  • If you were a parent, would you use any of this information? How?
Why can this blog be a useful teaching tool?
  • Students that see connections between their coursework and their lives do better in school.
  • Most students will either be parents one day or have children in their lives that they care about, so the topical information can help them build their knowledge about children and parenting and develop a positive image of the type of parenting they want to do.
  • The new core literacy standards adopted by most states call for frequent writing in all courses.
  • Newly developed end-of-course assessments to be used by many states will require that students demonstrate that they can think critically. These prompts help students practice critical thinking.
  • Newly developed end-of-course assessments to be used by many states will require that students demonstrate that they can analyze what they read. These prompts help students practice analysis.

What do you think?

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