As an education major I have been asked several times what I believe about effective teaching and student learning. My answer is that students learn best when they are involved in hands-on activities and the material being taught is presented in a fun and exciting way. I know that students aren’t interested in every subject matter but it’s our job as teachers to try to make every lesson engaging and to at least attempt to pique students’ interest, even if these efforts are in vain.
A clever way to add zest to a lesson is to incorporate trade books. For example, when I teach social studies I always try to find several trade books on the topic being taught and I introduce them to the students during the lesson. There is no real strategy to this, it’s just whenever it’s convenient to mention in the lesson, except I don’t force the students to read the selected books. Instead, I just let them know that they are available if the book sounds like something they’d be interested in reading. Often times I see sparks of interest as I tell them about the books and seeing this look makes me proud to have piqued their interest and opened their eyes to the vast choices of books that they may never have considered before. Social Studies is a very easy subject to find interesting trade books for but I believe that the same strategy can be applied to all subjects. Granted, it may take a little more digging to find them, but they are out there.
Some students may be too embarrassed to show interest in these books in front of their peers but if the entire class is engaged/interested then no one will feel like the “outsider”. I believe that the best way to do this is to make trade book selections mandatory. I know this sounds like it contradicts my earlier saying of making this be an option but if done in the right way, it can still be an option. Perhaps one book per grading period would be the best strategy to employ because there will be many topics covered in a grading period and therefore there will also be many different books to choose from. With all of these options, all students are likely to find something they are interested in reading.
In summary, I believe that learning can be made exciting if students read trade books and they may even surprise themselves and discover that a subject they once thought they hated is actually fun and enjoyable. Every student can be pulled into any subject if it is done in a clever, new, and exciting way.
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