Unshakeable - Day 10

20 Ways to enjoy teaching... No matter what!

Discover the WHY

#10 - Uncover the compelling reason for every lesson you teach

It’s about the Why. LOL Boy have we heard that a lot these last couple of years in Moffat County!


Why is a much harder question than how.


What’s the purpose of having kids learn this, anyway?

How am I supposed to inspire my students and help them tap into their inner motivation when half of my curriculum has no relevance to kids’ lives? How am I supposed to be passionate about teaching when most of what I do is test prep? What do I do with those skills and topics that I can’t even bring myself to care about, much less get my kids to care about?


Angela Watson. Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day...No Matter What (Kindle Locations 1675-1677).


2 ways NOT to get kids invested in boring, irrelevant material

When the alleged real life purpose for a concept is not that meaningful, we tend to do one of two things:

  1. sometimes we plow forward and force it on students
  2. we try dressing it up to make it more “authentic”


"Placing unmeaningful skills in a slightly more relevant context does work, but only part of the time”


We make the mistake of believing that learning must be fun when in fact real learning is often hard work! (Amen, sister) Real learning is centered around engagement and meaning and struggle for mastery is often the VERY THING that make it enjoyable. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL - and important


How does this benefit my students right now?

We need compelling reasons for teaching a lesson, too. Answer the “why”

Your passion and clarity of focus will become contagious and draw students in. It needs to be relevant to them now not necessarily in the future.

Will the task help them become better critical thinkers or cooperative learners? Will it help them become more disciplined in their work habits? Will it give them a new strategy for problem solving? Will it help them apply their skills to a new context, or sharpen and refine skills they’ve already learned?


Let students uncover the WHY

Part of our job is to help students figure out the why they need to learn this and how it will benefit them personally. Many don’t know how to figure out the why. It may be easier to start the lesson to give them some background.

  • Use a hook or anticipatory set to draw them in
  • Encourage reflection on how they’ve benefitted from putting forth the effort to learn
  • Thinking about the why after a lesson helps students see learning doesn’t just happen in a big light bulb moment - it comes through slow, steady, repeated practice.


Don’t just post objectives - post questions, too!

(Oh my! Posting targets AND essential questions! - are we all getting up to speed at UBD around essential questions?)

Post a question. Bring curiosity and thinking back to the classroom!

Essential questions drive instruction and uncover a greater purpose for what they’re learning.



Make the learning matter in the real world

Meaningful purpose for their work

Why write when no one will read it? Why problem solve when the answer doesn’t matter to anyone in real life?

“Student engagement comes naturally when kids identify a need or problem in the world and create ways to use the skills you’ve taught them to meet those needs"

Not always possible for every lesson, but maybe possible for some?


Give students n authentic audience for their work

Try to publish kids’ work as much as possible. Class blog?

Invite other students to view the work, or buddy with a teacher friend and have classes share their accomplishments with each other. Teach students how to give feedback on each other’s learning.


Incorporate life and character skills you’re passionate about

life and character skills = understanding media bias, evaluating whether an online source is credible, crafting a persuasive argument

skills successful in life = optimism, perseverance, grit, creativity, negotiation skills, compassion, and initiative

Think of all the qualities or traits you complain that students don’t have because no one is taking time to foster them. Then consider how you can incorporate those life and character skills into the lessons which you don’t otherwise have a compelling reason for teaching.


Example: not passionate about grammar - but passionate about technology? have kids find 3 good apps for practicing grammar, create a rubric for evaluating them, and then select a winning app and use it to teach another class of students those skills


We are ALL learners here

Sometime a lesson is not very compelling for students because they sense there is one right answer to every question.

It’s far more motivating to learn something with someone else and discover the answer together. So, join in on the learning process! Try to ask your students questions that you don’t know the answer to. Nothing makes a child feel more valued than when he or she is able to contribute something to the classroom that the teacher was genuinely not able to accomplish alone.


Of course, as teachers we should be highly knowledgeable about our subject matter and pedagogy. But we don’t need to be the expert on every topic and situation that arises. Give yourself permission to learn with students.


Discover the why together