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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Selling the Benefit to Students

As a teacher it is critical to sell the benefit of a lesson to students. Students too often fail to realize the benefits of education let alone a lesson. As teachers, we need to ask ourselves what we want students to know and be able to do in relation to what we are teaching and why. The answers to these questions will get us to the point where we can sell the benefit to our students.

These questions have various timeframes and answers. In the immediate future our answer may be that we want students to know and be able to do something so that they can pass the test on Friday. However, when we push the timeframe to a month or a year from now, it forces us to evaluate what we are teaching, what students are learning, and why.

Curriculum maps and the EPAS Standards for Transition help teachers answer these questions. Nevertheless, I found that a more personal sell was in order. With this in mind I aligned the curriculum with a singular focus on improving communication. I told students that their goal was to be understood the first time—in speech, writing, body language, etc. Through group discussion students were able to link improved communication with their college and career aspirations.

A word of caution, never preach the benefit to students; instead, let students discover it for themselves. Use the benefit as a mega-theme for instruction, and steer classroom dialogues in the benefit direction whenever possible. The key here is to meaningfully connect what we are doing in the classroom to the students’ futures.

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