Capture Student Interest Early in the School Year

6 min read

| By Elizabeth Mohn |

As September begins, millions of middle school students in the United States are starting back to school for a new year. Many students and educators find this time of year exciting and challenging as they consider the new year’s possibilities. Teachers may want to try to harness that student energy to help capture their interest in the topics and ideas they will be learning about and discussing throughout the school year. Gale In Context: Middle School has numerous new resources that teachers can introduce to students early this school year to help capture their interest. They can motivate students to continue to learn and grow throughout the new school year by presenting interesting topics and using other proven methods of engaging student interest. Teachers can help engage their students early in the school year by listening to their views, linking topics to students’ lives, and providing different perspectives.

Listening to Students’ Views on Science Topics

Teachers can engage students in the classroom by showing interest in their lives by asking for and listening to their views and opinions. Gale In Context: Middle School has numerous new science resources that can help teachers spark in-class discussions through which they can ask for and listen to students’ views. For example, teachers can encourage students to explore the updated Air Pollution portal to learn about air pollution, its causes, and strategies people use to prevent or mitigate it. After students review the overview and other resources, teachers can encourage them to give their opinions about the causes and effects of air pollution. Teachers can also encourage students to back up their opinions, citing specific information they heard, read, or saw in the portal.

Teachers can also ask students to discuss other, less controversial topics. For example, they might encourage students to explore the new Earth-Sun-Moon System portal. In that portal, students can learn about Earth, its moon, and the sun and understand how the different bodies affect each other. Teachers can ask students to talk about their understanding of the Earth-sun-moon system or ask for students’ opinions on topics covered in specific resources. For example, this magazine article is about this autumn’s annular eclipse. After reading the article, students could discuss the eclipse and their opinions about whether they would want to view it.   

Linking Social Issues to Students’ Lives

Another way teachers can interest students in learning is by linking the issues they learn about to their lives. Gale In Context: Middle School has several new portals about issues that students, with the help of their teachers, can link to their lives and experiences. The new Women in Professional Sports portal contains a wealth of information for students to learn about the history of and social issues relating to women’s involvement in professional sports. Students can read reference articles about women in specific professional sports, such as tennis and golf, or biographies of famous female athletes, such as Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe. After students review such articles, teachers can ask them questions about their own involvement in sports or about the ways women in professional sports have changed American society for everyone.

Teachers can also introduce topics that affect everyone in the United States. For example, the new Freedom of Speech portal provides students with topics about the concept of freedom of speech, particularly regarding freedom of speech in the United States. The articles, videos, and audio files present students with different aspects of the freedom of speech conversation, including specific cases or situations where people’s right to freedom of speech was infringed on. Teachers can ask students why freedom of speech is an essential right to them or how examples they have read relate to situations they have faced or might face in their own lives.

Providing New Perspectives on Historical Topics

Another way teachers can make classroom learning especially engaging is by providing new perspectives or new ways of thinking about topics with which students may already be familiar. For example, the Brown v. Board of Education portal contains information about a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of the twentieth century. Teachers can encourage students to learn about the history of the landmark case by reading the overview. Then students can explore the associated materials, including other reference articles, newspaper articles, audio recordings, and videos. Students may already have learned about this case and its effects on U.S. history in the past; however, teachers can use other resources available in the portal to provide new perspectives on a well-known topic. For example, teachers might encourage students to search for recently published articles that give perspective on the long-term ramifications of the decision on society in the United States. After students review some of the resources in the portal, teachers can ask them to think about how education in the United States has changed. They can help students better understand how this landmark decision has affected generations of U.S. students’ lives.

When exploring the portal, students can examine the resources they find most interesting, or teachers can help them locate engaging thought-provoking content. For example, they could encourage students to listen to this audio broadcast, which reflects on the landmark decision 65 years after the decision was made. The audio broadcast contains the perspective of one of the students involved in the original case, who later became an educator himself. The broadcast can help spark conversation in the classroom by providing more details about the individuals involved in the case and giving more context about why the students involved wanted to bring the case to the Supreme Court. Teachers can encourage students to think about how such first-person resources can give them different perspectives on issues they learned about in the past.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mohn is a writer and an educational content developer. When she’s not reading or writing, Elizabeth is usually spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, or working in her garden.

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