Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Do We Have to Learn This?

Scenario: After carefully planning a unit on information that, according to your state’s standards, is absolutely necessary for you to cover, your students appear bored and restless. Finally, one of them asks the question that all teachers dread: “Why do we have to learn this?”

It can happen to even the best of teachers. Somehow, in the rush to photocopy and round up resources, we can forget one of the most important components of any lesson: the motivation that students need to want to learn the material.

Your Goals:
• To answer the question truthfully and thoughtfully
• To make sure that students have a purpose for their learning
• To resist the urge to say, “Because I told you to!”

Steps to Follow:
• Take questions such as this one seriously. If students are wondering aloud about the purpose of a lesson, you have failed to make it important to them. Spend a minute or two whenever you introduce new material to connect it to what students already know as well as to future lessons.
• Never underestimate the intense need that students have for a practical purpose for their hard work. Have them set goals for themselves and their learning. Make a point of showing students how they can use their knowledge and skills now and in the future.

Mistakes to Avoid:
• Don’t be defensive. Take the question seriously and answer respectfully.
• Don’t assume that students know why they should learn something. It’s up to you to provide relevance if you want students to want to do their work and be successful.

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