The elementary years are a fantastic time when the kids don’t yet care much about what is and isn’t ‘cool’. To a third grader, teachers can actually be cool.
Eat your heart out, middle and high school teachers.
As a teacher I love to take full advantage of this. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids that what’s really cool is not caring about what’s cool. It’s the classic cool kid paradox.
We want students to embrace the fun, carefree creativity that comes along with being a kid. As the teacher, I like to model for them that the classroom is an environment where they can not only learn, but be themselves without fear of judgement.
So if you want your kids to leave their cool at the door, you might want to do the same.
This means getting your hands a little dirty (Or covered in paint, or making shadow puppets, or whatever). You might want to stray from the normal every now and then if you want to get some great student engagement.
Go back and watch an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, or even just the opening.
A big part of what made the show so entertaining was how “uncool” Bill was willing to appear so that he could best teach the material. The show was energetic and goofy and it became a classroom favorite. Kids didn’t think Bill was “weird,” he was “fun”.
You don’t have to have your own tv show to create lessons that are silly, fun and memorable. You just need to try and think of ways that you can step out of the ordinary, get a little weird and make your lesson something they’ll be thinking about all day.
9 Ways to Bring Weird Into Your Lessons
Portland doesn't own the patent on weirdness. Here’s some great ways to toss a little bit of fun and silliness into your lessons to kick up the engagement and make your teaching memorable.
Use Your Weird Voice
When you see student interest fading or need to draw attention to something in particular, bring their eyes to you with your best old lady voice. Get them laughing and get them listening.
Become an Actor
Take the voice a step further and create a character that might teach them part of or all of today’s lesson. By having characters that come from different locations, cultures, or careers, you can engage students in critical and creative thinking as they interact with this entirely new type of person.
Recruit Some Actors
You don’t have to be alone on stage; look for ways to get kids up and learning through acting. Create a quick script when teaching vocabulary or a math property to deliver the concept in another way. By getting kids up and out of their seats, you engage them in multiple pathways to learning.
Do a Little Dance
Your classroom should not be the tiny town from Footloose. Don’t ban dancing and music! Have dance parties or challenge kids to a dance off. Play silly games to review topics where the “consequence” of a wrong answer is to perform a dance move of their choosing.
Make it a Game
When playing educational games like Jeopardy, become the game show host. Use a pretend microphone and ask the kids their names like you haven’t met. There’s plenty of weird to be brought into these classroom games to make them even more entertaining without taking away from the lesson.
Come up with a fun song to help teach a concept or principle. If you use a song or rap from YouTube to teach a topic, sing along! Get the kids involved in singing and they’re much more likely to remember the material.
Draw a Comic Strip
Comics can help make material more accessible, fun, and even real world if the characters are using the concepts in a realistic way. You don’t have to be a great artist, stick figures will do just fine. Make physical copies and let the kids refer to them as they do their homework or study for the test.
Play the Fool
Pretend you don’t understand the concept or fall for a common misconception, making your students shout “No!” in protest. When they can teach you why you’re wrong, they’re showing higher-order thinking. Combine this with a character from above and suddenly you have an engaging, funny persona that the kids need to correct.
Your excitement is contagious to your students. Tie the topic to something you get excited about and bring your passion into the classroom. Does this current science topic bore you, but you’re a total tech geek? Well work some PowerPoint or Smart Board activities in and get yourself pumped up and geeking out!
Anyone who has worked with kids already knows these methods, but you don’t often see it in education textbooks or written on any rubrics for student teachers. If this isn’t your usual style, expect to get quiet stares for the first few times you attempt any of the above. In making the classroom a place that students feel comfortable and engaged, we can’t forget to bring out our little moments of weird.
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