To Engage Your Students, Have Them Learn New Things

I don’t like being bored. I don’t like going over and over something I already know. I don’t like it when I go to a workshop to learn something new, but instead I hear something I already know. And I don’t like it when I’m asked to apply what I know in the same way—no new connections, no new learning, no added value. Boring.

I got into teaching because I like learning new things and making new connections. God’s world is so wonderful, so diverse, with so many possibilities for learning, there’s no reason learning has to be boring. How about you? How do you feel about being bored? about learning?

engagementI don’t think our students like being bored either. I don’t think they like going over and over what they already know. I don’t think they like it when they’re not learning new things or making new connections. And students tell me they don’t like applying what they know in the same way over and over.

When I think of times my students were really engaged in learning, I think of times when they were learning new things (like an existentialist view of suffering as presented in Archibald MacLiesh’s J.B.). I think of times when they were making new connections (like how to respond as a Christian to an existentialist who is asking heartfelt questions about the nature suffering).

How about you? When you think of times when your students were really engaged, was it when they were learning new things? When they were making new connections?

If you want to help your students connect God’s world and Word, don’t bore them. For example, don’t have your foreign language students learn the same biblical principle (“Language is a gift from God”) year after year. And don’t have your foreign language students connect the same biblical principle (“Language is a gift from God”) in the same way “(Explain why learning grammar is important”)  year after year. Don’t teach your students that connecting God’s world and Word is boring. The stakes are too high.

Scattered puzzle pieces next to solved fragmentWhat can you do to engage your students? Have them learn new biblical principles:

  • If your social studies students have already learned “We should love our neighbors” (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:39, Gal. 5:14), have them learn “God calls us to join Him in His work of restoration” (Mic. 6:8, Isa. 1:17, Jer. 22:16, Hos. 6:6).
  • If your English students have already learned “People are created in God’s image” (Gen. 1:27, 9:6; Jas. 3:9), have them learn “Because people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27, 9:6; Jas. 3:9), we are creative (Gen. 2:19, 4:21-22; Exod. 35:30-36:1), communicative (Gen. 2:20-24, Exod. 4:10-12, Jer. 1:4-9) truth-seekers.”

You can also engage your students by having them make new connections between biblical principles they already know and the part of God’s world they study. Have your social studies students connect “We should love our neighbors” (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:39, Gal. 5:14) to the new content they are learning—Korean culture, the US Civil War, or discrimination. Have your English students connect “People are created in God’s image” (Gen. 1:27, 9:6; Jas. 3:9) to the novel they are reading—like Red Scarf Girl or To Kill a Mockingbird.

Bottom line: Engage your students. Have them learn new biblical principles. Have them make new connections between biblical principles they already know and the part of God’s world they study.

Take action: Get your students even more engaged in connecting God’s world and Word by having them learn new things. You can do this by discussing this reading, identifying 2 new biblical principles your students can learn, and by identifying 2 new connections you want your students to make between biblical principles they already know and the part of God’s world they study.

Michael Essenburg
School Improvement Coordinator
Christian Academy in Japan

Photo Credits: Students & Teacher. www.audio-luci-store.it via Compfight ccJigsaw Puzzle. Horia Varlan via Compfight cc

Today’s OnPractice is an excerpt from a larger curriculum called Help Students Connect God’s World and Word, © 2010, by Michael Essenburg and closethegapnow (www.closethegapnow.org). If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact Michael directly at mbessenburg@caj.or.jp.

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