Passion-Based Learning: 4 Ways to Incorporate Outside Interests in the Classroom

As curricula become more and more standardized, bringing your student’s passions and interests into the classroom requires a touch of creativity. But the extra effort is worth it: the more your students care about a subject, the more they will want to understand the underlying concepts.

Here are a few things you can do to help connect your students to what your teaching.

Find Out What Your Students Get Excited About

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While this may seem obvious, you’re never going to know what they’re interested in unless you ask! Using contextual clues, like a student wearing the same Toronto Blue Jays shirt or carrying a baseball glove with them wherever they go, could be a good way of finding out that your student is interested in baseball. If a student spends all of their time drawing, that’s another clue as to what they are interested in.

Try to sit down with your students individually and find out what they do on weekends or after-school. If you can connect yourself to them through playing Little League baseball or having played clarinet while growing up, it can go a long way into forging a connection with the student.

Connect Students With the Same Interests

If a group of students all play on the same Little League baseball team, they all know they like baseball and you may not want to put them together. But to the two students each buried in their notebooks that love drawing, having them work together could create some inspired work and forge new friendships that they may have never discovered.

While your goal as a teacher isn’t necessarily to play matchmaker with your students and create new friendships, creating a collegial atmosphere in the classroom and making new groups of people work together that aren’t quite as random as your students may believe can be a good way of fostering a positive environment.

Share Your Own Hobbies and Talents

While it’s one thing for your students to be passionate about something, it helps when they see that you are passionate as well. Whereas so many times teachers use the same, tired examples and students are bored because of it, giving off pieces of your own personality and your own interests can help spark interests with your students. If you are a big baseball fan, or a big musical theater fan or some other passion of yours, find ways to integrate it into the classroom. If you can’t do that, just sharing what you are passionate about outside of the classroom can spark a conversation between you and your students or it can lead to activities and opportunities you hadn’t even thought of!

Give Students Time to Express Their Passions

Not only do you want to find out what your students are passionate about and express what you are passionate about to them, but you need to give them time to explore those interests! Whether it’s setting aside time once a day, once a week or once a month, challenge your students to come up with projects that incorporate their interests from outside of the classroom. Furthermore, work yourself to come up with projects and lesson plans that incorporate these newly discovered interests. Having your students care about what they are learning is a good way of breaking down their tough exteriors when it comes to learning.

–Brian Weidy

More Resources:

25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom – informED

Passion-Based Learning – Edutopia

5 Ways of Bringing Student Passions to Student Learning - Edutopia