Teaching

10 ways to hook kids on learning from teachers of the year

Great teachers with great ideas can inspire other teachers to be great. These three teachers of the year have wonderful lessons for any educator on engaging students in the classroom. (Flickr / U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Great teachers with great ideas can inspire other teachers to be great. These three teachers of the year have wonderful lessons for any educator on engaging students in the classroom. (Flickr / U.S. Department of Agriculture)

It’s said that surrounding yourself with great people will help you become a greater person.

As an educator who’s always trying to improve, when a teacher of the year speaks, I listen. They’re usually brimming with enthusiasm, wisdom and great practical ideas.

As the co-host of the “HookED” radio show on the BAM Radio Network, I’ve been fortunate to interview three quality teachers of the year — two national TOYs and a state TOY. I speak for my co-host, Jed Dearybury, when I say that all three have been an inspiration. They’ve included:

Sean McComb, 2014 National Teacher of the Year (Twitter: @Mr_McComb) (Click here to hear his episode)

Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 National Teacher of the Year (Twitter: @JeffCharbonneau) (Click here to hear his episode)

Dyane Smokorowski, 2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year (Twitter: @Mrs_Smoke) (Click here to hear her episode)

The show is all about engaging, or “hooking,” students in learning. Here are 10 key take-away lessons on student engagement that I’ve learned from our three teacher of the year guests on the show:

1. The formula for great, relevant lessons: “the sweet spot of something that they value, something they have the efficacy to be successful with, and something that fits the culture and environment of the classroom.” (Sean McComb)

2. Learn new methods for reaching students by watching other teachers teach, even outside your content area or grade level. “Different personalities and different approaches in class reach different students in different ways.” (Sean McComb)

3. Bring the life lessons out of a text to engage even the most reluctant readers. “People are fascinated with people. … Even 2,000-year-old Greek literature can come alive when students are allowed to have strong opinions about what they are reading.” (Sean McComb)

4. The content we teach is important, but it’s not king. “The content is a method that we use to reach kids, the technique that we use to build confidence in our kids.” (Jeff Charbonneau)

5. Relationships with students and paying attention to students are both key. For example: Call students by their first AND middle names. “It tells them that you took the time to know a little bit more about them than the teacher next door.” (Jeff Charbonneau)

6. Motocross. Food. The synthetics in their shoes. Video games. It’s about students and their worlds. “Whatever it is that interests them, connect your classes to them in their world where they are right now.” (Jeff Charbonneau)

7. Teachers won’t always make deep connections with every single student. “If it’s not with me, I have to make sure I connect them with the teacher next door or that teacher two doors down so they get that connect with somebody.” (Jeff Charbonneau)

8. What does it sound like when students are inspired? “Huh.” Create “huh” experiences. “When I saw that, doors opened up and I said, ‘I will never teach another way again.’ That’s what makes magic happen with students.” (Dyane Smokorowski)

9. Go deep, like a 10-week exploration of piracy and intellectual property. Let students ask questions and pursue that curiosity. “Students’ curiosities deserve exploration. If you can dream big for your students, amazing things can come out of that.” (Dyane Smokorowski)

10. Reach beyond the four walls of your classroom. Bring others in through technology like Skype and other collaborative media. “Anything that students are curious about, there is someone out on this planet who is passionate about it.” (Dyane Smokorowski)

Each week, Jed and I interview other outstanding educators about engaging students in exciting classrooms. If these ideas resonated with you, there are more coming! (In fact, we just interviewed 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples … stay tuned to the show if you’d like to hear it.)

Check out the show and subscribe to it to get our weekly show delivered right to your smartphone, tablet or other device.

[reminder]Which of these lessons touched you most? What ideas did these teachers’ wisdom generate?[/reminder]

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