How can you catch your students' attention using their interests and reach your curriculum goals at the same time? Try using interest inventories both at the start of the year and throughout. Students will be much more engaged when their favorite interests are incorporated into the lesson.
Planning the Year with Interest Inventories
A teacher's biggest challenge is knowing how to engage students in the learning process. It's easier than you think.
First week of school activities often involve getting to know your students' interests, hobbies, and activities. Teachers, who want to connect with their students, will often work these interests into their lessons. One simple way to discover your students' interests is by having them fill out an interest inventory. These are questionnaires asking all types of things about a student's life. There are questions about favorite books and TV shows, sports, family activities, career interests, and so on. The worst thing a teacher can do with interest inventories is collect them, read them, and then never look at them again.
You can look at your curriculum for the entire year and the interest inventories at the same time. What are some daily objectives where it is easy to let your students guide your teaching? What about math and reading? Most schools have some independent reading programs. Help your students find books that interest them and that you have read, too. You can have casual discussions with your students about books they love in subjects they find interesting to check for comprehension or work on reading skills. In math, word problems give students of all ages difficulty. Make up word problems starring your students and their hobbies to work on different math skills.
Writing is another place where students' interests can play a big part, and you can use the answers from your students' interest inventories. Let students write about what they are interested in. If you notice in the interest inventories that you have several students who love soccer, ask students to write a personal narrative about a sporting event or research the history of their sport for an expository writing assignment. Knowing how to engage students in the learning process will also trick them into practicing skills for standardized tests.
Keep Up With Student Trends
Curriculum-based teaching is important, especially while you prepare your students for standardized testing and success in the real world. But you can use student-guided lessons as mentioned above during writing, math, and reading to teach daily objectives and engage students.
However when you teach young students or even teens, their interests can change over the weekend. It is important as you are looking at your whole year and ways to work in their interests to know that your plans are not set in stone. One way to keep up with students' interests and make sure you are engaging them with your lessons is to try to have lunch with a small group of students once a week and talk about their lives. You can also ask them to write you letters once a month in a writing journal about how they are spending their time.
Look at your yearly plan every quarter, and make sure when you are working students' interests into your classroom, they are still interested in that sport or hobby or TV Show!