One of the first things I learned as a teacher is that it is important to start from known to unknown when delivering a lesson. Connecting a new idea with something that is already known makes it easier for the students to relate to the new knowledge. It is easier to grab the attention of the students if they can make contributions to the subject.
For new teachers, capturing the attention of your students can be a really difficult task and the distractions by electronic devices further complicate the problem. Other variables that can make it difficult for a teacher to grab the attention of students include family problems, learning disabilities, and emotional trauma or difficulties.
Certainly, all the students in your class will come from different family and academic backgrounds. It is expected that a good number of lectures should build on previous knowledge and it would be wrong to assume that the students already have the requisite knowledge—when in reality they may not. Assessing what knowledge students bring into the class will help you to determine how to structure your lesson.
There are lots of direct and indirect techniques that the teacher can use to determine the prior knowledge of the students. The direct method can be in the form of auditions and pretests. The indirect method can be in the form of looking at the student’s inventory of previous courses or student’s self-reports.
The human mind always wants to be engaged this is why if students don’t find your lesson engaging their mind easily drifts off and they will find other activities to get them engaged. I have discovered that it is easy to capture the student interest using previous knowledge structured into a hands-on practical. Once you get students engaged from the first moment of the lesson, there is a higher chance that they will stick with you throughout the remaining part of the lesson. Here is what I do.
Look at warm-up tasks as the warm-up players do by the sideline before they are introduced into a game. Notwithstanding the short duration, it helps prepare the mind and body for a new experience. For example, assuming I want to teach the students about the ecosystem, I could make a list comprising of words that belong to the ecosystem and words that are out of place then ask the students to strike out the words that are out of place. To make the task more interesting as well as encourage collaboration among students, you can place the students into a small group of threes or fives and have a price for the group that is able to complete the task first.
It is easier to capture students’ attention using prior knowledge since it is something they already know. Once you have awakened their curiosity using prior knowledge it becomes easier to walk them through a new topic. Their grasp will be better because they can link the information to a past memory.