Melding Student Interest with the Standards

Monday, July 27, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

Back when we were students, most of us had no idea what the standards were. We weren't supposed to concern ourselves with the business of learning. Now, the thinking has shifted. Students are stakeholders and partners in education; they should know the standards almost as well as the teacher. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will care. Students just want to learn about the things that interest them. Here are some tips for how you can frame the standards around topics that draw your students’ attention.

Explore student choice wherever possible

It's clear now that when you give students choices, engagement improves. When writing any lesson plan, ask yourself how you can offer your students different options. It could be anything such as letting them personalize their interfaces during blended learning or allowing them free reign to choose their own topics for an upcoming presentation. The point is that as long as the activity aligns to the standards, the nuts and bolts don’t matter.

Think about application

The question of how a lesson will apply to real life is the bane of many teachers’ existences. However, it’s nothing more than students looking for a reason to buy into the lesson. So, give them one! Familiarizing yourself with real-world applications of the standards is the key. Your answer shouldn’t begin with a profession (“Engineers use this formula…”). Instead, think about how the skill applies to students’ own day-to-day lives.

Allow students to help unpack the standards

You might think of unpacking standards as a complicated (and dull) task. It’s as simple as finding the operative words and rearranging them in a useful way. Here’s a tip: verbs in a standard are often a skill needed for mastery. That’s it.

With that in mind, even younger students can break down a standard into an easy-to-understand form (and get a little grammar practice in the process!). Post a standard for the day up on the board, underline the verbs, and ask students what they will need to be able to do at the end of the lesson. They will surprise you with their intuitive nature. They will also feel more like partners in the process, thus making them more interested in what’s going on.

Regular surveys

Some teachers love the idea of constant surveys, while others have no idea what their students think about their class. A complete absence of feedback is a mistake. Although the observant teacher can pick up on the subtleties that students emit during a good or bad lesson, it never hurts to come out and ask whether their interests are being met and what they would like to see handled in a different way. Remember, they’re partners, not subordinates.

Want to learn more about how Edmentum can partner with your school or district to provide rigorous and engaging solutions for standards mastery aligned to Common Core and state standards? Check out this video on Edmentum’s Assessment Solutions, or sign up for your free trial of Study Island today!