Among middle and high school students, lectures can have an unfavorable reputation. They still have an important place in education, but lectures are best used when students already have some basic background knowledge, when they’re motivated to learn the material and when they’ve acquired listening and note-taking skills. Learning how to teach without lecturing and how to use more interactive methods that cater to different learning styles are essential tools for teachers in 21st century classrooms.
Lesson plans are heavily reliant on projects of all sorts. In a 21st century classroom, project-based learning is typically defined as an assignment that is meaningful and relevant to a modern, real-world problem. Project-based learning is another teaching method that can be used in multiple curricular areas. Here are some examples of real-world challenges for middle and high school students to think about:
- How to eliminate food deserts in urban areas
- How to discourage animal testing in the development of hygiene and cosmetic products
- How to build more efficient solar panels
- How to improve air quality in major cities
- How to tackle homelessness
Students generally respond favorably to a teacher telling them to put away their textbooks and take out a game. Learning can indeed be fun, and play-based learning can help reinforce material in a way that stimulates multiple senses. For instance, let’s assume you’re teaching Spanish to high school students and you want them to work on their vocabulary. Instead of doing vocab drills and lecturing about proper grammar, take out some Scrabble boards and ask the students to play a round or two using only Spanish words.
Role-play is another active teaching strategy to engage students in subject material. It has the added benefit of encouraging students to enhance their empathy and their ability to see situations from multiple perspectives. Teachers of nearly any subject area can use role-play in the classroom. If your students are a bit shy, break them up into small groups instead of having a few students perform a role-play in front of the class. As examples, in history class, a student could assume the role of President Lincoln speaking with Southern senators. In chemistry class, students could become electrons rotating around a nucleus. And in English, students could explore ways of resolving conflicts between characters in a book they’re reading.
Not all role-play is performance-based. Teachers can assign written work that requires students to consider another perspective. A student might pretend to be Anne Frank writing a letter to Winston Churchill, for example.
One of the most effective ways to reinforce learned material is to teach it, so why not have your students do the teaching? Assign each student a particular micro-lesson, where no two assignments are the same. Then, you could have each student explain what they’ve learned to the entire class. Alternatively, break students into groups and have each student give a more intimate presentation to the group.
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