Have you ever heard someone say, “Let me give you a little context.” Setting context is something we do on a daily basis as we engage in conversations with others. You tell a little of the background or at least express where you are headed in the conversation. It gives us mental pegs to understand where a conversation is coming from or where it is headed. How do you “set context” to prime students in your classroom? Here are a few tips for setting context effectively:
Setting context in a learning environment means that we put a “frame” around the learning event at hand. Just like a frame around a painting helps to focus our attention on the picture, setting context is a way of focusing student attention on what you want them to notice and/or do during the learning event without giving away the “punch line.” As you set context let students know what they should be thinking, feeling, and/or doing with their body to achieve the desired result. Remember this, if you don’t set context – they will! When they set the context, they may not focus their attention on the same things you hoped they would. The end result? You have to go back and re-explain what they “should have noticed.” Here are some examples of what “setting context” might sound like:
As I was driving home from the airport the other day, a very cool billboard caught my eye. The image was simple – members of a little league team sitting in the dugout cheering on their team with the phrase, “Unity: Pass It On” written in the bottom corner. By now, you have likely seen these billboards near your community too. They are the work of a group called The Foundation for a Better Life.
The nationwide billboard campaign launched in 2001 and has grown ever since. Today, there are “Pass It On” messages on the Internet, Television, in Theaters and now available through Podcasts. The Foundation’s mission is simple – “to encourage adherence to a set of quality values through personal accountability and by raising the level of expectations of performance for all individuals.” (The Foundation for a Better Life Web site).
Strong values and leadership go hand-in-hand. Here are some simple ways you can “pass it on” in your classroom: