Teacher Tip | Don’t Be a Dinosaur and Use Fads to Your Advantage

It’s Dinosaur Day which is the BEST. THING. EVER! It got me thinking about how children’s obsession with dinosaurs never seems to go out of fashion, unlike dabbing and Pokemon Go and so many other things. With fads and trends rapidly coming in and out of fashion, it can be hard to keep up! But how do we avoid being a dinosaur ourselves, and why does it matter?

Thinking back to my own school days, obsessions with things like yo-yos and pogs and Pokemon cards (OG Pokemon generation) were all consuming. It could genuinely¬†be hard to concentrate in class and not be counting the minutes until the end of the day when I could rush home and be ready for the 4 pm episode of Pokemon. I was really into Pokemon. As a teacher, I constantly hear other teachers complaining about how distracting the latest fads are. Trust me, I do the same thing, but fads can be your best friend. Even the really, really annoying ones you’re just praying will soon be over can be a very effective tool for a teacher.

How can you use fads and trends to your advantage?

As a teaching tool.

Okay, so I’m going to use the Pokemon example again because I still kind of really love Pokemon. One of the main premises of Pokemon is that they evolve into more powerful creatures. Now, the science there is far from accurate, but in science class, this gives teachers an opportunity to teach students the true science and engage them. Use a pokemon as an example and discuss what the process of evolution would be if it were real. How long would this evolution take? What is its environment? Why has it evolved certain features?¬†Use this tool to engage your students in your subject matter.

Pokemon evolution is a little iffy but a great way to get your students discussing real science. via GIPHY

Dinosaurs could be used similarly in science or in history class. I’m sure many science teachers jumped on the opportunity slime presented to discuss polymers and molecule chains. The current trend of bottle flipping also presents a great opportunity for a physics experiment… Don’t miss the opportunity to use trends to your advantage as a teaching tool.

To build relationships with your students.

Some fads are easier to turn into a teaching tool than others. For example, the ‘Floss’ dance trend is currently sweeping schools across the world! Unless you’re a P.E. teacher, it might be a little tricky to find a way to incorporate this into the curriculum. However, there is another way you can utilize fads like these.

Simply concentrate on your students as people. Having a good relationship with your class will make them more receptive to learning from you. If you take an interest in the things they like, they’ll take an interest in the things you like. I’m guessing if you’ve built a career out of it, you like the subject you teach. Treat your students’ interests with respect if you want them to respect you. You might even be considered ‘cool’ for sharing in their interests.

Don’t miss the opportunity to use trends to your advantage as a teaching tool

How can you keep up with the latest fads and trends?

So we know how we can use trends to our advantage and why it’s important to keep up, but that may be easier said than done. The last thing you want to be is a dinosaur, trying to be cool and incorporate things your class has lost interest in (alas, like Pokemon for many). There are a few simple ways to make sure you’re keeping up.

Talk to your students.

This is super simple and yet we so often forget to do it. Talk to your students regularly about their lives and their interests, not just school work. Whenever I’m writing a new script, I always ask my group what they’d like to do. This did mean that I wrote an entire play based on the Gummy Bear Song… but the kids loved it! As mentioned above, taking an interest in your students’ interests helps to build your classroom community too!

Be observant.

Even if your class aren’t super keen on talking to you, you can still gage their interests. Listen when they are speaking to each other. Make a mental note of anything that seems to be popular. If everyone suddenly has robot rucksacks and stationary, it’s likely that robots are in. Paying attention to these details and sharing in this interest will likely make your class more keen to speak with you about their interests in future.

Hit the web.

The internet is a great place to find out what’s happening. There are so many teacher communities often discussing these kinds of thing. I joined in on a Facebook conversation about ‘flossing’ recently. Even without joining in the conversation, you can check out what hashtags are trending on Twitter, especially if you work with older children or young people.

it’s not too tricky to keep up if you try. Don’t be this guy:

Don’t be this guy via GIPHY

If you’d like more resources on a certain subject or trend, let us know in the comments or email [email protected] and we’ll develop something for you!

Rebecca is the founder and chief executive officer of Silly Fish Learning Ltd. She is a children's playwright with a vast and varied career in education, primarily teaching drama and English.

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