It's often very difficult to get children to relate to you as a teacher. You're an authority figure, you're a lot older than they are, you dress differently and you speak differently. However hard you try, you just don't 'get it'.
Here are five really easy teaching hacks to make you fun and relatable to your class.
1. Dance it out
When the kids are restless, when someone's causing trouble, or when you've hit the 30-minute itch and you know you're losing them, give them a break. Stick on a popular song for 60 seconds and let them dance it out. Join in. No talking, no teasing, no mention of it before or after, just 60 seconds of uninterrupted dance action randomly inserted into the lesson when you feel they most need it.
2. Reference pop culture (accurately)
One of the main issues in the teacher versus student dynamic is the generational gap, and the sense they have that you really don't understand them. The easiest way to shatter this impression is to familiarise yourself with the things they love - TV shows, films, music, books. Whatever they're into, you're now into it. Talk about it in class, reference it in your lessons, draw on examples to illustrate your points, or just as a fun way to add something extra to the lesson. Just make sure you get it right, or you'll be seen as a figure of fun!
3. Indulge their social media addiction
Use an app like Kahoot! [https://kahoot.it/#/] to create interactive multiple-choice quizzes, just like the ones they play on Facebook. Use all that pop culture knowledge to make it as fun as possible. Add images from things they will easily recognise and already love, and make it a bit competitive: get a scoreboard going with a prize for the highest score at the end of every week, or month. This doesn't have to be a physical prize, you could excuse the winner from classroom clean-up for the whole of the following week, for example.
4. Bribe them
Let's face it: nothing works better than a bribe. Get yourself some raffle-style tickets and a few boxes of chocolates (good ones, we're talking Cadbury Heroes here!) Throughout the lesson, reward good behaviour and participation with a ticket. At the end of class, anyone with a ticket gets a chocolate. One ticket equals one chocolate, making it easy for people to earn multiple tickets, without it costing you a fortune in prizes. Just make sure you never give out more tickets than there is candy!
5. Stick 'em up
The world is rife with stickers of all types, suitable for all ages. Find some they will happily pull their own teeth out for. Fall back on that pop culture and make sure they're cute and funny. Then make it really hard to earn one. These aren't candy tickets given out for participation. These require serious effort to earn. If a normally troublesome student manages to go a whole lesson without being disruptive, they get a sticker. If a shy student finds the courage to ask a question, or venture an answer, they get a sticker. Make them rewards for unusual effort - rare and treasured!