This week in our How to Teach Your Children series, we have five tips for starting your homeschool lessons so your children’s brains are immediately engaged in the learning.
Any homeschool parent or teacher has discovered that even when we plan or use engaging lessons, children can sometimes check out on us. Even when they are interested in the subject! Not to mention, how our children might check out when the given subject or lesson is not their favorite!
The easiest way to make sure we capture our children’s attention is to start the lesson off on the right foot. Check out the five strategies below to grab your children’s brains at the start of the lesson.
Ask a Question Related to the New Lesson
Start with a question. Even if your lesson contains new information your children have never learned about, ask them a question about it. This will get their brains thinking about what they are going to learn in a novel way. Their brains will feel a little frustrated by not knowing the answer to the question and will want to learn it!
For example, if your lesson is about cell replication, ask your children how they think their skin heals when they have a cut. Children often like a challenge to think about something they don’t already know.
You can use this strategy in a variety of subjects. If you are introducing division in math, start with a simple word problem that requires division and ask them how they would figure out a solution: “You made 12 cookies and have 3 friends coming over. How will you divide up the cookies among the four of you?” If you are going to discuss the history of westward expansion, ask your children what they might need to take with them if they were going to move across the country. How might they carry it all?
An easy way to find questions to start your lesson is to look at the review questions at the end of the lesson.
Review Information from a Past Lesson
Sometimes, you may need to review vocabulary or concepts from a past lesson because the new lesson builds upon that knowledge.
You could describe the concept and then ask your children to give you the vocabulary word. A fun way to do this is with a game of Hangman for each vocabulary word. A quicker way, might be to write choices on a whiteboard for them to pick from.
If you want to review the information at a higher level, give your children the vocabulary word and ask them to explain to you what they know about that concept. Make it as game-like as possible to get them engaged.
For more tips on how to teach vocabulary to your children, check out:
Relate Material to Life Experience
Relate the new lesson to a book, movie, field trip or other life experience your child has had. When introducing three types of rocks, you might remind your child of a hike where you saw layers of sediment or collected igneous rock where there had been ancient volcano. Maybe they even have some rocks they could gather up and bring to the lesson.
If learning about a particular time in history, remind your children of a movie you have seen or a book you have all read that was set in that time period.
Reading the Magic Tree House series when the boys were little gave us background information on lots of historical events!
Present An Interesting Background Story
Children (and adults!) love a good story. So start the lesson by reading a story or watching a short video related to the topic. If you are going to learn about Newton’s laws in physics, spend some time learning about Isaac Newton himself. Or if you are going to read a memoir in history, find a video that introduces the person it is about.
Show a Mystery Object or Picture
Share something with your children that is related to the lesson you are about to teach and see if your children can guess what they are going to learn about.
If you are going to learn about states of matter, start with an ice cube. Show pictures from another country at the beginning of a geography lesson. If you are going to learn about a famous artist show a picture of a piece of work from that artist. You could even start with music that is related to the lesson like jazz or big band music to introduce the Roaring 20s.
If there is not an object or mystery to show, maybe you write a word or number on the board that is related. At the beginning of a lesson about continents, write 7 on the board and ask your children what they think there are 7 of in the world. If you are going to learn about descriptive language, write the word onomatopoeia on the board. That will get them interested!
Which of these strategies resonated the most with you? Incorporate it this week into a few of your lessons! Then, once you are comfortable with the strategy, come back and pick another one to incorporate. Children enjoy novelty (within routines!) and will stay most engaged when you change up the strategies you use to introduce lessons.