How to Create Effective & Engaging Content Pt. 3: Make It Relevant

In our last blog, we explored why it’s important that we look at who/where/when our content features, and how we can celebrate inclusivity. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.

This time around, let’s look at relevancy.

What’s relevant is simply another way to say what matters.

Differentiate Like the Algorithms Do

Blockbuster tried to tailor its movie selections to local communities’ tastes. Streaming took that idea even further with algorithms that personalize selections on an individual level. Nowadays, Amazon Prime features “Movies We’ll Think You’ll Like,” Netflix offers ”Top Picks for(insert your name here),” and Hulu has a “For You” collection. 

Why do streaming services go to all the trouble of personalizing recommendations?

The answer: Interest and choice drive engagement. Because streaming algorithms tailor our viewing and give us options, we often spend more time watching than intended: “binging,” right?

There’s a lot we can take away from the metaphor. We know that: 

  • Students thrive when they can see themselves in their classrooms.
  • Student “buy-in”’ increases when they’re offered choices that empower them. 

What streaming services do, essentially, is make the viewing experience relevant for each user.

Strategy: Take It Personally (The Students, That Is)

Regardless of the genre, I think we can all agree that the best films and TV shows speak to our lived or imagined experiences. Friends resonated with those experiencing the paradox of being “alone together” in the Big Apple. Black Mirror spoke to living in the shadow of the internet and 21st-century technology. Jurassic Park brought out the kid in all of us and taught adults that some ideas are better left on paper. 

Our classrooms can improve their connection to students’ experiences, too. As I mentioned in the last blog, there’s a deep-seated need to make our curricula more inclusive and representative. Make no mistake, that kind of systemic change takes purpose, passion, and deliberate intervention. Experts far more qualified than me have much to offer regarding strategies and ideas for change for marginalized communities in our schools.

What I can speak to, however, is the psychological connection our students can make to what they learn. In my classroom, it’s a continual, day-to-day challenge. My favorite way to do this with students is using strategies like task cards. Each task asks students to build, reflect, or connect to what they’ve learned in a meaningful way. They can be embedded as in-lesson prompts or collaborative activities like Quiz, Quiz, Trade. They’re designed with high schoolers in mind, but they could work with students of any grade level with just a few adjustments. 

Get the cards here:

Generally though, here’s two questions you can ask about content to do a “relevancy check”:

  • How could this topic connect to students’ lives?
  • How can the significance of the content extend beyond a thing itself?

How do you make content more relevant for your students in your classroom? Leave your idea or suggestion in the comments below.

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