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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Finger on the Pulse

I heard the kids singing it while riding a bus back from a field trip to Kennedy Space Center.

So lets set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun.

Its the lyrics to the song We Are Young by a group called FUN.

I had also heard my seven-year-old daughter singing the song in the backseat of the car.

The flag went up. My brain was buzzing. I thought to myself Ive got to use this song. I need to rewrite the lyrics and tie it to a lesson I am teaching on The Cold War.

So dontnuke the world on fire. It would burn brighter than the sun...

While Im still working on that song~ my point is this: To be an effective teacher and reach your students~ you have to keep your finger on the pulse. And once you know what the kids are talking about~ you have to use it for everything its worth.

Case in point: Earlier in the year~ when hating pop star Justin Bieber was all the rage~ I came up with a gimmick to help my students score higher on tests. Calling it the Bieber Challenge~ I hung a poster of the celebrity on my white board an told my students that everytime they scored a 90 percent or higher class average on a test~ I would tear a piece of the poster down. They went crazy.

But the idea came from staying in touch with what my students were talking about. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your student body can feel like an art form~ but here are some concrete strategies:

*Look at magazines. Just glancing at the covers of young peoples magazines at the supermarket can help you stay in tune.

  • * Listen to your students. Thats the best advice I can give. What are they talking about at lunch or during recess? Who are they talking about when they enter class or at the end of the day? If they keep singing a song when they walk down the hall~ that can be something you can use in class. Also~ this requires spending time with students during social times such a lunch~ recess and school dances.
  • * Listen to the radio. What songs are big right now? Can you rewrite the lyrics to those songs or work the artist into your lesson plan?
  • * Look at what students are wearing or displaying. Lunchboxes~ backpacks~ stickers on folders or binders all give clues about whats popular with kids today. Pay attention to those signs.
  • * Look at the best-seller section at the bookstore. Whats hot among young readers? We know that series like Harry Potter and Twilight dominate pop culture~ but can you spot a trend before it happens and work that into your classroom?
  • Continue to refine your ability to stay in touch with your students interests~ and it will make you a more effective teacher. You will be able to better connect with your students and speak their language. If you would like to further explore this topic~ visit Ed Worlds Innovative Teaching group at http://community.educationworld.comcontent/finger-pulse?gid=NTEyMQ==

See you there!