Teaching a concept is a lot like running a race. You have to know where the finish line is located, otherwise you don’t know which way to go. You have to be interested in the race, and you need to be consistent. So how can this be done?
1. Begin with the end in mind.
To borrow from author Steven Covey show your student where he’s going. This way ‘why do we have to do this?”‘ won’t become a question. If the goal is explained, i.e. “You’re going to learn about John Adams and how he contributed to the history of the United States” your student won’t be overwhelmed.
2. Pique their interest.
Films or movies, books, and trips are wonderful ways to start off a unit. For example, the HBO miniseries “John Adams” or the book it was based on by David McCullough would be an excellent starting point for older students. Compare the film with your history book and with the White House Presidents website information.
When looking for books and films, Amazon is a great place to start. Their recommended lists give you a great deal of information including grouping by topic and age bracket, and reviews by customers are posted on the site.
Visiting museums or historical sites in your area that pertain to this time period can also provide an excellent way to grab attention and make history come alive. North Carolina Historic Sites are described on the Internet and admission is often free.
4. Avoid stop and go teaching.
If your curriculum is set up in segments, chapters, modules, you have to be careful. Returning to the race analogy, it’s like sectioning off a mile run in 100-yard increments and the terrain is altered at each segment. It’s hard to visualize these segments are part of a whole and difficult to see the destination. The journey is disjointed and makes little sense. Make sure each part relates back to the whole. Thinking Maps are an excellent way to graphically represent concepts and identify how subtopics tie in to a unit of study.
5. Keep them interested.
To keep your students in the lesson, have them take an active role. Perhaps they could teach you one day. Give them the dry erase marker for the lesson. Role playing is another engaging activity and can be as simple as writing a letter. John and Abigail Adams were both avid letter writers. Their correspondences have been published. Have your student can assume the persona of John or Abigail Adams and keep parameters clear. “You are Abigail Adams, your husband has just agreed to defend the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, write a letter to a cousin or friend explaining what has happened and why.”
Remember as William Butler Yeats said, “Education isn’t the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.