Take Your Classroom to the Real World with 3 Authentic Strategies

3 Authentic Strategies To Take to Your Classroom to the Real World

There are ways to take your classroom to the real world by making the classroom a real-world setting, where students make real-world decisions with real-world consequences.

3 strategies serve as steppingstones to get you where you are ready to jump headfirst into authentic learning in your classroom.





With simulation, the scenario drives real-world learning. Students may or may not have specific roles in the simulation.

According to Pedagogy in Action (n.d.), there are many benefits to running a simulation in the classroom. Through simulations, students:

∎ Actively engage in student-student or instructor-student conversations: Students are active participants in anticipating outcomes and coming up with new questions to ask.

■ Transfer knowledge: A simulation should include an extension to a new problem or new set of parameters that requires students to extend what they have learned in a previous context.

■ Understand and refine their own thought processes: Following the simulation, students should have strong reflections about how and why they behaved as they did during the simulation.

■ See social processes and social interactions in action: Students see how the world works and interacts (para. 3). 

Sample Simulation:

Going to the Store

When you go to the store to buy groceries or clothing, everything you purchase is added up, discounts and taxes are factored in, and a total is given. Today scanners and computers generally do all this, but students will need to determine the final costs in this case.

Students will simulate opening a store that sells specific items (e.g. clothing, toys, tools, etc.). He or she will sell these items, offering sales of 30% off. He or she will be the cashier at the store, while classmates are customers, exchanging money back and forth.

To demonstrate how this works, the teacher should begin by modeling his or her own store. This can be done in many ways.

  • Open a bakery. Students will shop using cards depicting items and pay with play money provided. You will keep a running tab on the invoice. Once the store is closed, you will count up the money and ensure you have a balanced register, showing the math involved.
  • You could provide students with play food or items brought in. You would need to price each of these items, and students would bring them to the register to cash out. Once the store is closed, you will count up the money and ensure you have a balanced register, showing the math involved.
  • You could use this as a reason to reward the class, maybe they have just finished testing or a big project. You could provide ice cream with toppings or different types of pizza. The students would buy the items with the money provided (maybe some earn more than the others). Once the store is closed, you will count up the money and ensure you have a balanced register, showing the math involved.
  • You could go online shopping and, as a class, buy various items and determine how much change would be provided. Once the class has finished shopping, you will count up the money and ensure you have a balanced register, showing the math involved.

Solve Real World Problems

Let’s say your school has a section of the sidewalk constantly submerged underwater whenever it rains. Students have to traipse through the water, often getting their feet wet and tracking water into the school. This can be messy and a safety hazard because someone could slip on the wet floor.

What if you challenged your students to create a solution to this problem? They would have to brainstorm ideas for solutions, design what they come up with, figure out how to build it, gather the materials needed to construct it, and develop a presentation to convince the higher ups that their idea should be implemented. More exciting, what if their idea was actually adopted? How meaningful would it be for students to look at what they created being used every day for their fellow students and community? This would certainly take the learning out of the classroom and put it in the real world.


Mentors bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. These are people who are out in the real world doing what students are learning about. Who knows how to maneuver their way around the real world better than people who are actually out there doing it?

Introducing mentors into your classroom can be done in a few different ways. Usually, a mentorship involves more than just one interaction. It might involve a few or even many over the course of the year. One type of mentorship is to partner a student with a particular interest in a subject with someone in the professional world doing what the student is interested in. For example, a student has shown strong interest in being a veterinarian. Finding a vet willing to give her a little time to tell her about his day-to-day work, answer questions from the student, and maybe even have her shadow him for a day or two, would give the student perspective on what being a veterinarian actually involves.

Alternatively, a content mentor helps students with something they are doing in school. If a student completes a research paper on black holes, connecting him or her with a professor at the local university who is an expert on this content will allow the student to learn so much more than reading about it. Students’ mentors can use their expertise to help students achieve a greater, enduring understanding of an assignment or lesson. They can also put the content in perspective with the real world, because they are putting the knowledge to work.

Keeping It Authentic

Putting students into the shoes of real people through role-playing and simulations gives them practice for dealing with these problems in real life. Involving mentors and conducting interviews gives students a direct line to the real world, allowing them to gain perspective and receive guidance from someone actually experiencing what they are learning in a classroom. Solving real problems makes student work meaningful, because they see their efforts being used for a practical purpose, rather than doing the work and seeing nothing except a grade. Exposing students to work that involves a real-world situation or person creates an authentic classroom and closes that gap between learning and how the learning will actually be beneficial and used in their lives.