Are your students yawning, checking their email, launching paper aeroplanes in your lessons? Perhaps you’re making one of these mistakes.
"Boring", by Cristiano Betta https://www.flickr.com/photos/cristiano_betta/
First off, let me just say that I don’t think it’s a teacher’s job to entertain kids: you can get a professional comedian or magician to do that. Also, at the risk of sounding hopelessly old-fashioned, I believe in good discipline, good behaviour and good manners. Nevertherless, lessons should be engaging and something the students look forward to. If that is not the case, could one of these factors be the cause?
You’re not an expert in coding
Actually, neither are the majority of people. But not being an expert has a double whammy effect:
First, it means you are unlikely to stretch the kids as much as they should be. Teachers have a tendency, unless they are especially vigilant, of setting work that is within their own capability – which is fine if you have a vast amount of knowledge, but not so great if you know less than your pupils.
Second, not having the knowledge you need has a deleterious effect on self-confidence, which the kids will pick up on straight away.
- Read Computing without computers. It explains programming concepts in ordinary English.
- Join Computing at School
- Log in to the CAS website and then look in the Events section to see if there are any courses you can get on to.
Your challenges are not challenging
Set the bar too low, and kids will get bored. Set it to high, and they will give up. It’s a hard one to crack, but every teacher in every subject in every kind of school has had to do so.
- Set the kids a test to see where they are in terms of prior knowledge, skills and understanding. This is sometimes called a “baseline test”. You can then use the results of the test to guide you, both in terms of the general standard of your class, and in terms of the standard of individual pupils.
- Log in to the CAS website and have a rummage through the resources that people have uploaded. Maybe there are one or two you could borrow and tweak.
- Get together with a local school so that you can collaborate on setting work. This will give you a sounding board for your ideas, expose you to ideas you may not have thought of and potentially reduce the workload for both parties.
The content is not relevant
Not everything has to “relevant” of course: see, for example, my article entitled Ideas for the computing curriculum: #4 Fun and pointless? Why not?. But making the content relevant to the kids’ lives is a pretty good starting point. For example, setting a challenge about, say, keeping track of cattle is not likely to fire up kids in the city, many of which may not even have seen a cow in real life. Similarly, setting a problem to do with the building of a new motorway with a class of pupils in a rural school, many of whom may not have seen a motorway in real life, is not likely to be especially gripping. (By the way, these examples are real: I’ve taught kids who have never been to the countryside, and I’ve heard of kids who have never been to a large city.)
- Set work that the pupils can relate to, by starting with what they know about already.
- If possible, give them the experience to start with. For example, arrange a trip to a farm. If that’s not possible, find and show a film about life on a farm. In this day and age, you don’t have to start with a blank slate.
- Ask the pupils what they’re interested in. I don’t think it’s a great idea to limit your teaching to what they already know and care about, but those are good things to start with if you want to engage them from the outset.
Go on, bore the kids into submission!
Ever wondered how to ensure your ICT and Computing lessons are boring and ineffective? Go on, bore ‘em: how to make your ICT lessons excruciatingly dull tells you exactly what to do – and all for only £1.99.
What are you waiting for?
cross-posted at www.ictineducation.org
Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Digital Education."