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Creating Engaging Lesson Plans Despite Sleep-Deprivation

As a junior at Cornell University, I see it all the time: students clinging to their coffees while stumbling into class and slumping over in their chairs.They’ll stare blankly in the general direction of the lecturer, dawning dark eye circles and sporadically yawning.

I’ll admit I’ve been that person to show up to class exhausted and therefore struggle to stay engaged. Haven’t we all? According to a study conducted at Brown University, 73% of college students were found to have sleep problems. During one lesson in particular, I was really struggling.

In sophomore year, I arrived at my 9:30am macroeconomics lecture dazed and confused from a lack of sleep. I’d gotten a grand total of 1.5 hours of sleep thanks to a final research paper which was due that morning. I fully expected to absorb nothing from the lesson and review the slides after a nap, but the instructor pleasantly surprised me and helped to wake me up.

My economics instructor, Dr. W, started out class by telling us about the 2019 Saudi oil attacks, where over 5.7 million oil barrels were set on fire and destroyed (costing millions of dollars of lost oil). My sleepy peers and I perked up when Dr. W said these attacks caused a depletion of 5.7% of the world’s oil supply which dramatically increased trade prices and further flamed political tension between Saudi Arabia and other global powers. I almost forgot I was in a macroeconomics class! Before I knew it, I was learning about how supply and demand generally influence trade prices and equilibriums. I experienced, even in a state of sleep deprivation, genuine excitement and engagement with learning about the role macroeconomics plays in reflecting political stability in our lives. Overall, the linking of macroeconomics to current events fully engaged me. Educators can use a similar approach as Dr. W by connecting what students learn to current events and our lives. If professors want to wake up their students, and mitigate the negative effects sleep deprivation and disengagement have on student learning, I recommend connecting class lessons to current events.

Aljazeera.com. 2020. Saudi Oil Attack: All The Latest Updates. [online] Available at: <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/30/saudi-oil-attack-all-the-latest-updates/>

Brown.edu. 2020. Sleep | Health Promotion | Brown University. [online] Available at: <https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/health/services/promotion/general-health-physical-health-emotional-wellbeing/sleep>

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LessonLoop’s mission is to amplify student voices to create engaging effective education.

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