As a teacher who loves to travel, I try to bring the world into the classroom at every opportunity. I’m not just talking about discussing where we’ve been on holiday – I’m talking about using what’s around us to hook a student’s interest outside of the subject, then develop their understanding within it.
Young people are naturally curious – although they can do a good job of hiding it when they think they’re not interested. With that in mind sometimes I’ll hide exactly what we’re learning, just to inspire that curiosity. There has never been a generation which is more connected than the one we teach; their understanding of the lives, struggles and needs of others has never been more important.
Here are a few things I do to try to make that connection and bring the world into my classroom:
Globally relevant topics
By using globally relevant topics students are tapping into knowledge they have learned elsewhere about current affairs. I’m always surprised by the students who are clued up on what’s going on around them and those that aren’t. This can be an interesting way to develop discussion and show that there are always two sides to the debate. This is especially interesting in English, as many of the themes we talk about are so relevant today. They see the lives of struggling migrant workers in Of Mice and Men and we talk about what happens when an ambitious and foolish leader is left unchecked in Macbeth.
Objects and artifacts
Bringing something from that outside and undiscovered world can switch a student from a passive observer to an active learner. Too often in education, we look at things from behind the PowerPoint glare or in black and white print. Give a student something they may never have seen before. What do you think this object would be used for? Who created it? Why was it created? Already with those three questions, we’re using their prediction, inference, synthesis and problem-solving skills.
Telling stories and connecting with others
Stories are information with a soul, and people are naturally drawn to that soul. Giving a subject a human face will draw them in. Students will start to understand not just the thing we’re looking at but the reasons and motivations behind it. Whenever looking at a new poem I first try to connect the life of that poet or the speaker in the poem. What is his or her story? What do we know about their world? From that, what do we think the poem will be about?
With exams and grades to one side, what teacher doesn’t want to inspire young people to think about others, whoever and wherever they might be? The more we can draw that connection between us and others around the world, the more prepared students will be for a well-connected future. And of course, while we’re doing that we can teach them to connect with the characters, stories and themes of some great works of literature.
How do you encourage your students to be citizens of a connected world?
How do you bring the world into your classroom?