Each morning as we begin our school day, I try to give my own kids a sense of the purpose of their learning. Yesterday, after we watched a few minutes of the news, I asked the kids to find a local charity to which they would each like to donate. I wanted them to connect what our experience is to what is happening to other families in our own neighborhood. My kids were a little grumbly at first, to be honest. They didn't immediately feel a connection; until they started to research what the people around them are struggling with right now, in this moment.
They each sent me an e-mail with their selected charity, and a few sentences about why they chose what they did. One of my children chose a housing non-profit; one chose a food pantry; and my third chose the local arts center. Each of their reasons were different. But unlike some of the assignments where they don't feel a sense of ownership or relevancy, this morning they woke up and asked me if I had, in fact, made the donations, and if so, could we select a few more charities next week?
This real world connection is one of the most important instructional habits and can be incorporated into our daily practice, on-line, or in the physical classroom. It makes a difference in how kids show up for their learning and how they remember and value what they learned long after the formal lesson ends.