How Am I Supposed to Teach A Topic That I Find SO Boring?

Seriously...How are we, as instructors, supposed to make certain topics exciting and engaging when we would rather spend our weekends doing lunch duty than listen to ourselves try to teach them. To be perfectly honest, there are more than a couple of these topics that I dread teaching, but the one that I find the most tedious is significant figures. Understanding "sig figs" is critical in order to succeed in the physical sciences so this topic needs to be taught as one of the first few lessons.

After beginning the semester trying to engage and excite my students, they are quickly forced out of the hazy dream that Chemistry is all about explosions and Breaking Bad. When I get to this lesson I am met with shock, horror, and glazed over eyes.

Please tell me I'm not alone!

Here's my tip for you: Even though you may be teaching a topic that is, admittedly, boring, the learning process does NOT need to be boring. In fact, you can make students enjoy learning "boring" topics through the use of games.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of my favorite classroom games. But first, my go-to boring topic solution: QR code scavenger hunts (because who doesn't enjoy running around looking for hidden papers with their cell phones in hopes of winning an exciting surprise).

To assess or promote group learning, you can create a scavenger hunt in which students must search and answer questions related to the topic. Instead of simply writing the questions on paper, I use a QR code generator so that students must scan the code to access the question with their phones - since students think that cell phones are better than candy.

Let me walk you through this:

  • The day before doing the scavenger hunt, let students know that they will be allowed to use their phone (if they are not typically permitted to bring it to class), and instruct them to download a QR code reader before coming to class (not RIGHT before class...but the day or morning before - Seriously, if you don't tell them this I'm sure half of your students will still be trying to download it 10 minutes into your class period). I use "QR Code Reader" with my Android, but any QR reader will work.

  • There are QR code generators that you would be able to find after a quick Google search. I have used this website.

  • Type your question in the text box of the code generator site and print off (and laminate if desired) the QR codes.

  • Before hiding the codes, you may want to number them and write down where you hid them. I have lost a few codes because I failed to do this!

  • Hide them!

  • I assign my students into groups evenly distributed based on ability (and cell phone availability) and instruct them that the group who completes the scavenger hunt first with ALL the correct answers will win (something exciting)! Since they only need one phone per group, this prevents students who do not have smart phones from feeling left out.

Here is a FREE resource - Significant Figures QR Code Scavenger Hunt Packet

Contains 10 questions, answers, and QR codes ready to be printed!

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