Helping students make real-world connections with the material they are studying brings a level of engagement that just can’t be found in a typical lecture or textbook. When students connect what their learning in school with what is going on in the world or in their own lives, they take ownership over learning about the topic. Here are ideas for incorporating real-life experiences into your curriculum.
- Invite experts into the classroom to present on the topic your class is studying. An architect, computer programmer, or banker can discuss how they use math in their job. Never again will you hear, Why do we have to learn this? Students will understand how important math and other studies are to their future careers!
- Use real data and current events. We live in a world of increasing change. Populations are growing, the climate is warming, new laws and policies are voted upon every year. Be sure to incorporate the latest research and data into lessons. Reading articles about the wildfires in California or a breakthrough in medicine makes lessons relevant and can motivate students to get involved in their communities.
- Role-play a scenario. So your students just read the book Blubber by Judy Blume or another book dealing with the topic of bullying. Have students role-play a scenario related to bullying. A group can show how they would stand up for classmates that were being bullied. Next time students are on the playground, they may feel comfortable using some of the techniques that the class role played inside the classroom.
If students are reading a mystery, invite them to recreate a crime or trial scene from the book. The possibilities are endless and will help students make meaning from what they are reading.
- Explore an issue within the school. Are there never enough copies of the most popular books in the library for students to check out? Your class could work with the librarian to learn about the process and requirements for ordering new books. They could research alternate means of obtaining popular books for the library, and learn many valuable life lessons.
- Partner with the community. Look for opportunities for students to work with a community organization or learn from mentors. Students could explore a local issue or research the local history and present their solution or findings by designing, printing, and handing out flyers to bring awareness to local residents. Students might create a web page about their research and link the page to the community’s web site.
Working within the community helps students feel connected and can bring history or politics to life. When students know that their work will be presented to a larger audience, it changes how they work, knowing they could have a real effect in the community.
However you choose to bring real-world experiences into your classroom, it is sure to be one that students will remember and appreciate.