When I was a student, the classroom was my worst nightmare. Although I was responsible and made good grades, I could not focus at all in school. I spent much of my time thinking:
"How many more years will it take for me to be done with school forever?" or "How many bricks are there on the classroom wall?"
The struggle is still real.
Not much has changed since grade school. I am tough to entertain.
Recently, I found myself having flashbacks to school days.
I was listening to a talented public speaker, and I was bored. The speaker was obviously experienced. He seemed confident on the stage and his material was important material. His gestures and poise where even those of a seasoned speaker.
However, I remember seeing one of the PowerPoint slides and seeing a list of about seven items and thinking, "Oh gosh, when is this going to end?"
And then it hit me. The person speaking wasn't really using his gift of teaching, he was simply explaining.
I started thinking about my own teaching methods and realized that I often fall into a similar trap. I become so tired from teaching that I slowly sink into a mode where I simply explain.
Explaining is different than teaching. Explaining is putting ideas into words in a way that I understand the material. If I feel I haven't been clear enough, I will use more words to explain further.
Teaching, however, is more than words. It's communicating the material through movement, voice, and body language in multiple ways so that many understand.
In other words, explaining = boring. Teaching = exciting.
Here are some tips to stop explaining and start teaching:
1. Tell stories - My forth grade teacher was crazy (in a good way). I remember one day she marched into the classroom and told everyone to fall on the floor. After everyone was on the ground giggling, she proudly announced that it was the first day of Fall. Everyone rolled their eyes, but for me it was just another normal day in her class.
The best part of her class was when she would read to us. I forget the names of the books she was reading, but they were pretty large books that under normal circumstances I wouldn't read on my own. Her story telling method was full of changing voices and volumes, large hand gestures, and telling facial expressions. She had us completely hooked.
She also had cruel yet amazing trick. She also would stop at the most suspenseful parts of the story. The entire class would loudly beg her to keep reading!
WE WERE BEGGING FOR MORE EDUCATION!
Use stories. It works.
2. Use a visual aid - Visual aids (even the ones where you feel it is a stretch) help to keep the class engaged. It gives something for the students to visually connect with and breaks up long lectures.
To be honest, even if you are using an imaginary prop, this concept works.
I was recently watching Jim Gaffigan on Netflix, and I couldn't stop laughing. Apart from being thoroughly entertained by his quick whit, I realized that he was using a lot of imaginary props. There was nothing there, but my mind created the prop and made me connect to the story even more.
3. Be dynamic - As mentioned before with my forth grade teacher, being a story teller and a dynamic speaker requires some changes in the presentation of material. Change up your facial expressions. Change the volume and tone of your voice.
Even change where you stand.
This topic is for a different post, but I move all over the classroom and my students love it. By "move" I mean, run, walk, or even climb on desks.
Don't tell my boss, but I occasionally climb on cabinets as well.
4. Get the class involved - In my classes last year, I rapped.
I never considered myself much of a rapper and typically listen to soft music. However, my students loved it so much, they started rapping too.
I knew I was making real progress when the students starting asking me, "Profe, what's your rapper name?"
Class involvement is crucial for keeping an audience engaged. All of the sudden, they have to actively participate in their own education. You can use activities, songs, call and response, or simply ask for the class' opinion. Don't steal the show. Get them involved!
Don't Explain. Just Teach.
Don't fall into the slumber of explaining. It not only will drain the students' energy, but will also drain yours. Be dynamic, tell stories, be active... rap if you have to.
How do you teach in your classroom in a way that is more than explaining?