Once upon a time (the way all good stories begin) there were eight friends from Middle Tennessee, two SUVs, one house, and six days eating and shopping across New England. Three of these friends were teachers, but two of them were OBSESSIVE about teaching and CONNECTING ideas to their teaching.
The plan for the trip was to see as much of New England as possible, and our friend, Joan, was our tour guide. We took a boat trip on a huge lake, a day trip to Maine, another to Vermont, and visited as many sites as possible in New Hampshire. It wasn’t long before Lark and I (the OBSESSIVE ones) started making connections to various sites and coming up with ways to incorporate them into our teaching. The surprising thing is Lark and I did not teach on the same side of town, the same level of students, or the same socio-economic type, but we found connections. What we had in common, and still do, is a love of children’s literature and thematic teaching.
A discovery at a local bookstore developed into our MISSION for the trip. We found children’s picture books with content that related to the local area: history, wildlife guides, stories and legends. We also found stuffed animals, and Lark bought a stuffed loon. The next day a display in a gift shop caught our eye, and we found the cutest little stuffed animals that made authentic-sounding noises that the animals made. The sound of the loon fascinated us, so we both bought one. As we read brochures we discovered a wildlife center close by that sheltered loons.
Lark and I have known each other since 1984 and share this crazy obsession about teaching. We don’t always realize that others may not share our enthusiasm. We no doubt drove our friends a little crazy on that trip with our constant connecting –
“Oh, look, here’s another thing we can do. Just . . . .”
“What about taking pictures of the loons on their next and then . . . “
When our daughters were growing up we know we bored them because whenever we got together they would soon be rolling their eyes, sighing, and saying, “Mom, we need to go.”
This adventure to see loons became a scrapbook story I wrote after we returned home. I called it A Looney Adventure. To read the details of our crazy search and learn how I used this with 8th graders, go to the Scrapbook Page on the Menu of this blog.
When I taught the reading strategy of Connecting to my 8th graders, I used the scrapbooks and children’s books. Using personal stories of your travels, discoveries, adventures, or even daily life to connect your subject matter makes you
- more approachable
- invites students to make their own connections
- creates interest.
Consider your life and how you can make these connections. We know that the strategy of Connecting is critical to engaging students in learning.
Perhaps you picked up some souvenirs on trips that can be used in an object lesson for science. Write some math problems using the details of a trip: gas mileage, budgeting, shopping, etc. I found students were always interested in my life – teachers are still a mystery to most students, so take advantage of this.
Through the years of teaching I collected an extensive library of children’s books and used them in many ways. An excellent text on teaching comprehension by using picture books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet see: Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement, 2nd Edition by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. All levels of students can be engaged with these books, but if you’re sure your high school students will be insulted, check out the other sources they recommend in the appendix.
You may not be a scrapbooker like I am, but you can find other ways to apply this idea to your own personal style. Power point presentations with pictures can replace the scrapbook and still tell a story. Incorporating your own passions and hobbies into your teaching can give you a boost when the “required test prep” becomes unbearable. My love for teaching always involved a piece of creativity – it made teaching fun for me.
Are you counting joy these days or counting the days until Fall Break or Thanksgiving holidays? Try counting blessings instead!