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Helping Students Make A Connection Between What They’re Learning In School To Their Goals In Life


'Stepper connection' photo (c) 2009, Simon Vanherweghe - license:

I’ve previously posted, and written in my books, about a study that showed the value of having students write a few sentences after lessons about how what they just learned can be connected to their life (see “Relevance” & Student Learning). I’ve also posted a comic strip that humorously highlights the impact of seeing relevance can have on a student.

We just finished a unit (on Jamaica) in our ninth-grade English classes and, before we began our next one on Everest, I thought I’d apply a version of this kind of reflection to see how it went.

First, I gave each student a sheet asking them to list what units and life skills we had studied so far this year, and how we studied them (you can download this sheet and, in fact, all three sheets I used in the exercise here). Then, after they had completed it, I gave them a sheet asking them to list their personal, academic and professional goals. After that sheet was done, I had them clear their desks, put the first sheet on their left and the second sheet on their right with space in the middle for the the third sheet I then gave them. That sheet said “List ways how what we have studied and how we have studied them this year can help you achieve your goals.”

In other words, how what we have done (on their left) can help them achieve their goals (on their right).

I’ll share some examples in a minute of what students came up with, but it’s safe to say it was an exceptionally successful reflection. After people made a list, they made them into posters, which they will share with each other tomorrow.

Though I shouldn’t have been surprised — since this is what happens all the time when I ask students to write what they think are the most important things they have learned in class — it’s the life skills lessons that seem to stick (those are the ones found in my books on helping students motivate themselves.

Here’s a sample of what they wrote:

Self-control can help me with my career by helping me not get angry.

Self control can help me by remembering to use condoms.

You need grit to succeed in college because it’s probably going to be kinda hard.

Self control can help me with the military because if I have self control I won’t have to worry about losing my anger and snapping at one of my teammates or my drill instructors.

Patience and self-control can help me get along with my brothers and sisters better.

Writing, reading, typing and speech can help me with becoming a lawyer.

Grit is going to help me in my own business on the days I just don’t feel like working.

Taking personal responsibility is a step to me becoming a good husband for my wife and a good father for our kids.

The life skills we learned will connect to my career because I will have to have patience to be a teacher to younger kids.

Reading better will help me get the credits I need to graduate.

As always, I’m eager to hear suggestions from readers on how to make my lessons better!

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Pingback: Helping Students Make A Connection Between What They’re Learning In School To Their Goals In Life | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… | Learning Curve

  2. These are great exercises! In the future, I plan to use your ideas with my classroom. When children know that they are learning things that will help them in their future they are more likely to take an interest in what they are learning. Great advice! Thank you!

  3. Thanks for the posting, Larry. The principal of my child’s school was just talking yesterday in our parent meeting about needing to integrate student personal goal planning into their classroom lives. I will share this with him.

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