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Monday Mapping: Planning the Previews

The older I get, the less I am interested in reading things I do not consider relevant to my life.  I LOVE reading, but I do not like wasting my time, and much of what is produced these days is just that: a waste!  Students are the same way.  They do not want to read what they do not consider relevant.  So, how can we get them involved in our lessons?  

Plan the previews!

It is instinct for teachers to make sure their lesson is grounded in solid content.  We struggle to find the perfect resources and to make sure our students will be engaged in the lessons.  Unfortunately, we often forget to introduce the lessons in a way that will draw our students in, helping them to find the relevancy and the value.

How can you preview your lessons better? 

Think about each lesson as if its an upcoming box office movie.  You've spent millions, maybe billions, to produce this lesson that you feel is valuable enough to fill your very precious class time.  Now, you need the movie trailer to get their attention and hook them into the great storyline that is to follow.

Here are just a few ideas:
  1. Create a movie (lesson) trailer!  Add romance, suspense, music, mystery.  Turn the volume up high as students are entering the classroom, and then bring the lesson on.
  2. Make them mad!  Use images, stories, or experiential exercises to make it real for the students.  Once you have them angry, the rest is easy.
  3. Make them sad!  Involve the senses and let them find empathy in the lessons your classroom has to offer.  Don't sugar coat history, and allow your students to express their emotions.
  4. Remind them of reality!  Bring up their past and attach your lesson to their lives.  Making it real to them makes it real for them.
  5. Use multimedia!  Find games, cell phone quizzes, significant songs (Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire") to get their attention and interest in the topic at hand.
My favorites?  So many, but here are the easiest ones to describe!
  • Setting up my classroom like a speakeasy from the Roaring 20s: Prancing in my flapper dress, my Jazz blaring from the radio, and my dancing shoes ready to sport the Charleston, my students were hooked before the bell. 
  • Quietly reading (very) short survivor stories from Hiroshima as images of the Atomic bomb destruction flash on the screen behind me.
  • Flash headlines from recent newspapers involving acts of hate or hate crimes.  Show pictures of the perpetrators or the victims.  In between, flash the words "Hutus" and "Tutsis."
  • Start off class by rearranging the classroom.  Have the students move the desks here and there, reducing their personal space with each transition.  Collect pens, pencils or other personal items you "like" from students as you push them further and further into a corner, explaining that you need and deserve more space.
  • Turn the classroom into a human game board.  As students enter, they become a pawn on the board and must earn their way to their desks with correct answers to review questions that also lead to the next lesson.
Of course, you have to follow up the amazing preview with an incredible lesson.  But once they're hooked, the lesson comes so much easier!  See lessons for the above previews here:
Happy Teaching!