How to Pump Up Your Lesson Plans by Coleen Armstrong
Keeping things from growing too boring or banal requires large amounts of creativity, but you’ll be surprised at how rapidly those juices begin flowing. A fresh approach to two or three lessons soon multiplies into 20 or 30––and before you know it, the word “inspired” applies to all presentations.
• Remember, the whole world is your classroom. Every book you read, every play or party you attend, every PBS special you watch, every person you meet should offer an opportunity. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “How can I use this in class?” Perhaps that college professor you met at Starbucks would be willing to address your fifth graders about global warming. That World War II vet living next door could talk about his eight months on a submarine.
• Don’t hide your passion. If anything connected with the Tudor dynasty makes your blood rush, then go with it. Speak often and fondly of “My boy Henry.” Find ways to interject his name or something he did into virtually any discussion. Ignore the groans; no enthusiasm is ever wasted. Your acceptance of your own little fanaticisms will allow the kids to grow more comfortable with their own.
• Intertwine your subject matter. Political topics should always contain references to history; otherwise, what’s the point? Literature is filled with psychological implications; why else would those characters behave as they do? What does animal behavior teach us about humans; are we all natural predators? You get the idea.
• Dramatize. Costumes and props are essential, even with high school students. Let your students participate too. Your recreation of a Lincoln-Douglas debate can include a pair of stovepipe hats. (Use construction paper.)
• Tell stories. In 1918 the Bolsheviks ordered a ragtag firing squad to assassinate the last Tsar of Russia–-along with his wife and family, which included five children. What led up to this incident, including the Tsarina’s pathological fixation on Rasputin the mad monk, along with the brutal clubs and dull bayonets used to finish the job, makes a more riveting tale than anything you’ll see in today’s news. History, science, and government are all filled with enough raw material to keep your audiences rapt and wide awake every Friday afternoon.
• End each class period with a teaser. Begin with “Wait till you hear…” Then when your class begs for the spoiler, smile and shrug, saying, “You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out.” Once this becomes your trademark, you can have a bit of fun with it: “Wait till you hear my proposal for ending school detentions!”