At some point in your career, you must learn how to make the best of teaching boring topics. We’ve all got those topics we just can’t stand teaching.
Maybe it’s a certain novel that’s mandated by your curriculum, but you hate every character that crosses its pages. Or a history unit you know is important, but it puts you to sleep every time. Maybe it’s a skill that your students need, but one you tend to avoid practicing yourself. Whatever it is, all teachers have things they dread teaching but are required to spend time on.
We all know we’re better teachers when we’re teaching things we enjoy, so how can we continue to be inspiring and engaging teachers when we’d prefer to be teaching ANYTHING but the topic at hand?
Here are four tips for doing the best job you can while teaching boring topics.
4 Excellent Tips for Teaching Boring Topics
Tip #1: Find A Good, Ready-To-Use Curriculum
One of the worst things you can do (but maybe the easiest) is to take a “let’s just get this over with” approach.
Pulling out the same boring lessons you’ve used in the past, or pushing everybody through the motions, inspires no one and results in cursory and superficial learning. But at the same time, given that the topic is not your favourite, it might be tough to find the motivation to design something better.
Luckily, these days, we’re surrounded by easily-accessible resources. There are likely some great, pre-made resources out there that will cover the topic you’re teaching in an engaging way. They could be just a quick Google search away!
- If you want to find a way to reinforce concepts with your students but dread the same routine you always use, why not try digital escape rooms? You can find these on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
- If the idea of teaching listening comprehension lessons makes you groan, why not try teaching them using a podcast listening comprehension lesson? You can find these on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
- If you get bored teaching your students about non-fiction texts while reading a textbook, why not try using fun and engaging non-fiction articles? You can find these on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
There’s no shame in looking in other places for help.
Someone who enjoys and values the material is much more likely to create enjoyable and inspiring lessons than someone who only teaches it because it’s required.
These Full Year Middle School ELA Bundles are ready-to-go, engaging and relevant middle school lessons. You can find the Full Year English Language Arts Bundles on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
You can also find other pre-made lessons from fellow teachers, education blogs, and Teachers Pay Teachers. You do not need to reinvent or plan every lesson yourself.
Tip #2: Ask Colleagues For Help
Talk to your fellow teachers.
Maybe they don’t mind what you dread and dread what you love. Maybe there’s a way you can help each other. Can you switch classes for a given unit? If not for a whole unit, how about a lesson or two?
Also, consider what other subjects and teachers are covering in their classes. Is there an overlap? Can you minimize the unit you dread because another teacher already covers the requisite skills?
For example, some teachers might dread teaching research papers. They might think they are boring to write, that research and citation are boring to teach, and would rather do just about anything than grade a whole stack.
However, research and essay writing are important skills for students to learn. So, instead of dreading this topic, these teachers could partner with another teacher who enjoys teaching this skill – and maybe, in exchange, they could teach something to that teacher’s students that they might not enjoy.
While swapping lessons might not be the solution for you, your colleagues can be great resources – don’t be afraid to talk to them.
Tip #3: Adjust Your Mindset
If you go to work everyday thinking, “Ugh, I have to teach that novel again. I hate that novel,” then that novel will probably seem more and more awful each time you pick it up. Focusing on your boredom and dread will make teaching boring topics more overwhelming.
Instead, if you try to reflect on the positive aspects of the novel (or whatever topic you’re dreading), your mindset will likely shift to something more optimistic.
Try writing a list (mentally or on paper) of the good things about the material. Here are some prompts to get you started:
- Why is it important that students learn about this?
- What benefits will students gain from this material?
- What essential skills or experiences might they miss out on if you didn’t teach this topic?
- Are there any parts of the material that you don’t mind?
If you’re struggling, you can supplement this list with ideas from other teachers, students, and maybe even your favourite teaching blog or professional literature.
If your list helps you develop any small aspects of the topic you don’t mind, run with those. See if you can put your twist on the topic somehow to make it more appealing to you (and, therefore, help you teach it with more enthusiasm).
Let’s take the teacher who dislikes research papers, for example. If they still enjoy seeing their students excited about their futures, they could use a product like this Career Exploration and Research Project. They would still have to cover what they believe are the boring parts of research and citation, but it’s a lot easier when all of the research centres around a topic they’re passionate about. You can find the Career Exploration and Research Project on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
Or, maybe you’re not allowed to choose the text you read for your whole-class novel study, but you can still opt for fun and varied assignments to use as assessments in your novel unit. This way, you won’t get stuck reading a pile of identical essays on a text you already can’t stand. Find the Novel Study Choice Board on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
Adjusting your frame of mind can be difficult, but these simple steps can go a long way to alleviating some of the stress around teaching your dreaded topic.
Tip #4: Be The Change!
This tip won’t work in every situation, but it’s important to remember it’s an option. Sometimes your distaste for something in the curriculum might go beyond your personal opinion and preferences. Sometimes teaching boring topics is completely unnecessary.
Maybe that topic is outdated, irrelevant, or needs to be replaced with something more useful for students. If this is the case, you don’t have to wait for someone else to make a change.
Find out how the curriculum is established at your school or district, and become a change instigator.
Does your school have a curriculum committee? Can you become a part of it? How are novels and textbooks selected at your school? What is set in stone, and what isn’t? Find out who has the power to make changes (your department head, a principal, or maybe even your state legislature/provincial government) and consider talking to/lobbying them.
New novels are always being written, technology and science continue to advance, and attitudes in society shift as governments and economies change over time. And most importantly, our students continue to change. In this age of rapid development, the world students must learn to live in changes markedly with each new generation.
If you’re motivated to see improvements and changes in your curriculum, don’t wait for someone else to do something about it.
Teaching boring topics, unfortunately, is sometimes a part of the job. But there are steps you can take to make it easier on yourself and keep your students engaged.
I hope this post helped give you some suggestions on teaching boring topics in your classroom and that you find a way to engage and inspire your students to learn topics they might find boring in a fun and exciting way.
Are you looking for even more ways to make teaching exciting?
- 3 Ways to Make Teaching Non-Fiction Interesting
- Ways To Incorporate Non-Canon Authors Into Your Curriculum
- 14 Ways To Make Geography Class Fun
- Creating an Engaging Summer English Project
- Interesting Real-Life Math Lessons
- Effective Ideas for Teaching Grammar and Vocabulary
- 18 Effective Teaching Strategies
Engaging Resources to Get You Excited to Teach
This bundle contains 14 of our most popular book report projects to save you time and money. Students will enjoy the variety of their independent reading assignments as each book report project provides lots of student choices.
The following three book report projects are included:
- Book Vs. Movie Comparison Assignment
- 12 Genre Book Reports
- Novel Study Choice Board
What Teachers Are Saying:
“I’ve set this up for my class that needs direction, but also independent choices. Decision making is a challenge for them, and so many kids grumble that they have to read the same book and discuss it page by page. This resource takes the mundane-ness out of book reports. Such a great help for me!” -Jodi Z.
These poetry units each contain eight engaging lessons for middle school classrooms. Students will enjoy these differentiated and relevant units. These units help students analyze a variety of poetry forms – poems, songs, spoken word, and create their own poems to present at a poetry café.
What Teachers Are Saying:
“What a fantastic unit! I love the way everything is put together – including engaging videos, step by step instructions, and interactive activities that I would not have thought of. Thank you so much for this!” – Brie B.
- Grade 6 Poetry Unit – Teachers Pay Teachers USD and Shopify CAD
- Grade 7 Poetry Unit – Teachers Pay Teachers USD and Shopify CAD
- Grade 8 Poetry Unit – Teachers Pay Teachers USD and Shopify CAD
This no-prep – just photocopy and teach – full-year creative writing bundle will keep your students engaged in their writing. This bundle provides holiday writing prompts (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter) as well as seasonal writing prompts (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, Back to School) to support an inclusive classroom environment.
Students will select one of the provided seasonal or holiday-themed character roles and create a written or visual product based on the character’s specific writing prompt using the RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) format.
What Teachers Are Saying:
“Students liked the opportunity for choice when writing. It made reading their finished work more exciting for me as they were not all the same!” -Amanda M.