Whether you teach elementary, middle, or high school, I’m sure there are certain concepts that are more difficult to teach than others. One of the hardest concepts to teach in second grade is telling time. However, I love teaching time because there are so many awesome activities for my students to do to help them learn that concept.
On the flipside, there are also concepts that are difficult to teach because I flat out don’t like to teach them, but I have to because of the curriculum. Please don’t tell me that I’m the only one that doesn’t like to teach certain things. The concepts that I dislike teaching often happen to be concepts that I don’t think are grade-level appropriate (too hard or too easy for my students).
So here are a few simple tips to help you along when you get ready to teach difficult concepts in any subject area and any level. I’ve done all of these, and they have been helpful during my teaching career.
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Find hands-on activities
You can never go wrong when you get your students involved in the lessons you are teaching. If the difficult concept that you are teaching can allow for hands-on activities, go for it! Remember that you have diverse learners in your classroom. Your tactile learners will love hands-on activities, but I think we all learn better when we “do” and not just “hear.” For example, if you are teaching a difficult concept in Science about matter, have your students go around the classroom and find different types of matter. Hands-on activities can be in the form of crafts, models, experiments, write-the-room activities, stations, etc. You can always find hands-on activities on Pinterest, Instagram, and Teachers Pay Teachers, or just do a simple Google search.
Ask co-workers for suggestions
Your co-workers are a great source for ideas for teaching difficult concepts. During my first year teaching second grade, I had to teach about map skills. I found a few activities on my own, but I asked my co-worker, who had taught second grade for many years, for ideas and she gave me an AMAZING in-class project. I did it with my class and it was a hit. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher friends to pour their ideas into your brain!
Invite a special visitor
If your administrators allow it, consider having a special visitor or guest come to your classroom to help re-inforce a difficult concept that you are teaching. Our school has had visitors come to classroom during career day. We’ve also had people from the local zoo visit to teach students about animals. Can’t get a visitor to physically come to your classroom? Many teachers have been able to have visitors “come” to the classroom via Skype. Again, you will have to get your admins permission, but your students will love to have an expert in the field come and speak about a concept that you are teaching.
Have your students teach each other
When I was in graduate school, my professors required us to teach each other the concepts in the courses. I didn’t happen all the time, but when I did it, it really helped me understand the concepts in a more in-depth way. You can model this same concept in your classroom. For example, you could divide your students into three groups and give them a word problem. Then you could instruct each group that they must explain to their peers how to solve the problem. One group must explain using a number sentence, another group must explain using a picture, and another group must explain using a different method. Then each group can present the word problem in front of their peers. The goal is for students to get a better understanding of the different ways to solve the word problems. As your students work together to present to their peers, their understanding is deepened because they have to think critically about the concepts and how to best get their peers to understand them too.
Conduct a virtual field trip
Virtual field trips are another great tool to help teach concepts. Discovery Education and Microsoft have great virtual field trips.
Play a game
I am a big supporter of using games in the classroom to help teach difficult concepts. I previously wrote about using bingo games in the classroom. The great thing about using games is that students sometimes don’t even realize they are learning because they are enjoying the game so much.
Which one of these tips do you already use in your classroom? What other tips do you have for teaching difficult concepts in the classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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