Use the student’s motivator or reinforcer

Make the most of special interests to introduce new and difficult tasks. Use special interests as motivators to help students engage in new and/or difficult material.

A student’s interest in

  • Vehicles could be used to teach counting: counting pictures of cars, lorries, or other motor vehicles, differentiating between vehicles
  • Water to teach self‐help skills: taking a shower, cleaning a bathtub, or washing hands
  • Cartoon characters or famous people: to teach social skills through the use of Power Cards with Peppa Pig, Horrid Henry, Power Rangers as a model for a desired behaviour
  • Mobile phones: comparing the tariffs to get the optimum financial outcome
  • Trains timetable: used to teach maths, time, duration of journey, cost comparison
  • Flowers: seasons, plant care, impact of weather
  • Animals: care of, exercise, nutrition

Kluth and Schwarz (2008) offer the following advice (Just Give Him the Whale)

  • “Literacy. Allow a child to integrate his or her most-loved characters and possessions into classroom reading time. A child may choose to speak through a favourite puppet, but is still offering an opinion and knowledge.
  • History. Find creative ways to adapt standards-based content to the fun things your students are excited about. For example, one history teacher explained the UN and its relationship with all countries by drawing an analogy with the Super Friends cartoon characters.
  • Maths. If you’re working on a maths lesson, consider asking a student to write a problem, diagram, or pattern that relates to his particular area of interest. Sometimes, the best way to combine academic material with a student’s interests may not be immediately evident—but your students may see connections that you don’t”

Creative Teaching illustration

We must be flexible and creative to present the information in a format that grasps the child’s attention and hold it throughout the learning process. (Top Ten Tips for Teachers)

For example, a student who loves trains may learn more quickly or engage well in an assignment if a train sticker appears at the top of the worksheet or the task uses train-related information in the task scenario or directions. Chickering and Gamson (1987) said

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.