Making Lessons Meaningful

We all hear it over and over . . . if lessons are meaningful to students, they will want to participate and will be more likely to connect with the material or skills. This improves their chances of learning and succeeding. There’s no controversy in education regarding the importance of teaching in a way that facilitates a connection between the subject matter and the life experiences of students. We all know that this is important. We all know that it works. So why aren’t we all doing it? Remember that many teachers teach the way they were taught. That can be good or bad, depending on how they were taught. But many, many teachers continue to teach in ways that are not effective in today’s world. For some, it’s all they know. Others are aware that there’s a more effective way, yet it’s difficult for them to leave their comfort zones. Today you’ll be helping all your teachers take


some new risks, rethink what meaningful learning entails, and make their lessons even better than they currently are.

Begin by leading a brief discussion based on the following questions and ideas: 

Is it important that the lessons you teach hold meaning for your students? Are you interested in learning about things that hold no meaning for you? For instance, if you are a first-year teacher and you learn that there is a meeting after school today regarding teachers’ retirement, will you be motivated to attend? No? But what if the speaker at the meeting is excellent? Still not interested? Technically, this could affect you thirty years down the road. But isn’t it true that you can’t even concern yourself with things a year ahead right now? Chances are good that you won’t be attending this meeting. Would you agree that any one of us is more likely to pay attention and give our best efforts to a task that holds personal meaning or value? What are some approaches you take in your own teaching to ensure that learning is meaningful to your students? (Let them share a few ideas.)  

Next, have your teachers decide which of these lessons or activities would likely hold more meaning for their students: 1. An activity that asks students to underline the nouns in given sentences or An activity that asks students to attempt to speak without using any nouns 2. A lesson in which the teacher has students study the definitions of Newton’s laws of motion or A lesson in which the teacher and students study and discuss how the laws of motion apply to football or to playing video games 3. Listening to a lecture about a historical figure, taking notes, and then being tested on facts about that person or

Teaching Practices


Conducting research to compare the historical figure to themselves, predicting how that person would act if he lived in our world today or determining how that figure actually did impact life as students know it today 4. An activity in which students study probability by rolling a given set of dice or An activity in which students use probability (as it relates to meteorology) to determine which month or week would be best to have an outdoor class party Now have teachers share four or five meaningful learning activities they are currently incorporating in their lessons. 1.





Thank them for sharing. Be sure to express enthusiasm for their creative ideas. By doing this, you are validating those who are willing to contribute and share their ideas, and you are helping make less effective teachers aware that what they are doing might not be effective.


The Ten-Minute Inservice

Pair teachers of like subject areas and give them the following assignment: Discuss, with your partner, ideas for five new ways of taking lessons that you already teach and making them more meaningful to the lives of your students. When you have come up with five, add them to the master document that will be posted online. Be sure to post your ideas by [date]. Note: If you don’t want to post the document online, then simply tell the teachers where the master copy will be located so that they can add their ideas by the deadline. If you think their bags of tricks are getting bulky, we can hardly wait for you to conduct Inservice 16, “Fifty Ways to Make Learning Fun.”


Teaching Practices


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