“This is boring, Miss. Can’t we do something fun?” As a teacher who prided herself on being a “fun” person, I always dreaded hearing such a comment from students. Being “boring” unearthed a deep fear in me that I was the epitome of ineptness. Therefore, I decided to incorporate a series of “fun” learning activities including mummifying chickens for my 7th grade social studies unit on ancient Egypt. However, I soon realized my fun learning activities were simply fun activities. In our advanced technological age, I was irritated with the fact that I had to compete with the short attention spans of my students as well as their sense of entitlement to be entertained. Frustratingly, after observing my teaching neighbor, I found that the same students who were bored in my class were extremely engaged and enthralled with reading the book “The Outsiders”. Why were these students more excited to read than participate in one of my fun activities?
The lesson I learned was that I needed to change my instructional mindset. Learning in and of itself is engaging and the act of learning should not be downplayed as a cheap amusement or “activity”. In addition, children of all ages seem to be intelligent enough to make the distinction between engaged learning and activities. They are quick to value that “fun” isn’t as important as learning. Therefore, great teaching is centered on writing lessons that are academically rigorous and challenge students’ thinking as opposed to a compilation of activities. This doesn’t mean that lessons should be void of engaging activities however it does mean that these activities should encourage higher level critical thinking.
Therefore, I decided to keep some of my instructional activities but incorporate a more academic component. I had students mummify their chickens in addition to writing a two to three page diary entry as an Egyptian priest documenting the steps of mummification and how it impacted the afterlife of the soul. As the years passed and I became a more seasoned teacher, I found students were engaged (and extremely well behaved) because they were synthesizing their knowledge in a way that challenged their metacognitive skills and helped them created an original writing piece reviewing content.
Teacher’s Tips: How can I be a more rigorous and engaging teacher?
What strategies do you use to promote rigorous and engaging lessons?
I am an education coach and consultant as well as an executive functioning coach for children struggling with ADD/ADHD. You can also check out this blog at aquinaseducationcoaching.wordpress.com and