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Classroom Ideas: Sell Objectives to Your Students

Jordan Catapano


In his book “To Sell Is Human,” Daniel Pink makes the bold suggestion that everyone – even teachers – are in the business of “selling” as part of our everyday classroom ideas. We might feel more like teachers than salespeople most days, but ultimately there is some degree of persuasion that occurs within the classroom. That persuasion – or “selling” – for us transpires as we try to make it apparent to students what exactly it is that we are offering them and why it is valuable for them to take the time to pursue it.

How do we go about selling our product to students as part of our classroom ideas? In all too many cases we settle for telling students “Just do it” or “Trust me” when it comes to getting them to commit to their work. This might work to the extent that the student has following your lead, but it does little to satisfy any doubts or lingering “Why should I?” questions they may have.

First, we have to be clear on what exactly we’re in the business of selling to students: We are selling to students skills and information, AND the belief that those will empower them. If we keep these objectives in mind, then we can turn lethargic kids into motivated learners who see the big picture. And the better “salesperson” you are, the more likely your students will be motivated, engaged, and growing.

How to Sell to Your Students

If your students are already motivated to be engaged in your classroom, then they are likely already “sold” on the premise that there is something of value being offered there. If, however, doubts or a lack of motivation appears, it’s OK to undertake a few of the following techniques that may help you “think like a salesperson.”

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Personal Credibility

  • Showcase your own professional experience with the field you are instructing.
  • Reveal previous students’ successes with their growth of skill and understanding you helped facilitate.
  • Work hard to establish and maintain a good reputation among students.
  • Regularly demonstrate the depth of your expertise within your instructional field.
  • Be yourself and have fun – a smile is often an easy thing to pass along.

Other Student Successes

  • Provide testimonials from previous students that relate their thoughts on confidence, learning, and value in your classroom.
  • Share broad data on previous students’ various test scores.
  • Share data on previous students’ college admission statuses.

Real-World Applicability

  • Provide examples of the real-world uses of the skills or content by others.
  • Craft activities and projects that allow students to use your course skills and content in their own lives and witness the results.
  • Allow students to pursue their personal passions and allow use skills and content of your course to amplify that pursuit.
  • Point out to students their own personal improvements they’ve made throughout the year.
  • Make sure that students are given opportunity to have fun enjoying what they’re working on.

It can be awkward trying to think of ourselves as salespeople rather than strictly as instructors. It can also be enlightening when we realize that much of our responsibility as educators requires that we not only teach specific standards, but that we also sell students on the value and relevance of them. When you conscientiously undertake transforming student perceptions on how their efforts are valuable, then you’ll find yourself facing a classroom of motivated, interested, and big-picture-thinking students who are ready to grow.

Do you agree that part of our role as educators is to “sell” students on the importance of our concepts? How do you go about convincing students of that importance? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website

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