When to Add the Sugar
How do you know it's time to add more sugar to the lesson?
One of the tools I like to use - probably because I have spent a lot of hours playing a certain computer game - is to imagine an ”energy meter” just above the students' heads. It shows how much energy they have left. All I have to do is look and listen:
Listen. Listen to the 'chatter', when it reaches a certain level, you know it's time to pull a furry rabbit out of the hat.
Look. Watch the students' body language. When it drops above or below a certain level, or certain students start to fidget, take that as a signal to change gear.
Reflect. Probably the most important part of your working day. When a lesson has ”crashed and burned” reflect on when it was that you lost contact with the students. Then plan a humorous moment at the start of the next lesson, or if possible in between the lessons in cases where you have ongoing e-mail contact with the students. A well-placed spoonfull of sugar can set them up for a great next lesson.
The English teacher was enacting a story, from a script held in his hands, even before the students arrived. He seemed to be rehearsing for a play. As the students came into the room they were each given their own piece of paper with three words written on it.
Some of the words were the classic mistakes
your / you're,
there / their.
Other homonyms included
aloud / allowed,
ate / eight,
bare / bear
The language point being offered was that some words sound almost the same when spoken aloud, and the only way to know which word is being used is to listen to the context of what is being said.
The teacher’s story ended and he started again from the beginning, including some gestures which suggested that the students who were present were to look at their pieces of paper. Some students made the connection, and their understanding of what to do (match the written words with the spoken words) spread around the class.
As the last students arrived, the teacher embarked on a third rendition of the story, with more deliberateness and small pauses after the selected words whilst the teacher made eye contact with the students who thought he had just said ‘their’ word.
At this point the teacher moved into the next section of his lesson and used the homonyms from the story more directly.
Apart from the clever use of story-telling, what else do you notice is going on in that classroom?
Playing the Fool, deliberately engineered interruptions
"I play the Fool in order to bring humour to my classroom. It’s a role that I deliberately take on, like a coat or a cape. I think most of my students know that, even though I enjoy playing the role of Fool, I do it mostly for them.” - Martin Richards
One of my University professors, Alan White, was an expert at keeping our attention at the highest level, by using interruptions. It was necessary since there were 200 students packed into an airless lecture theatre, and the lectures went on for two hours starting at 9 am.
Initially his interruptions seemed to be natural ones.
These interruptions happened so often that we began to expect them. His lectures were interrupted by one of an increasing variety of interruptions, to which we gladly looked forward.
The timing changed from being sometime near the middle of the lecture, to being closer to the end. Indeed some lectures lacked an interruption, which was in itself an interruption!
Our respect for the professor grew as we understood that he was deliberately engineering interruptions for our benefit. We anticipated them, talked about them during the coffee breaks and showed our appreciation of his ever-increasing creativity in providing for our needs, by turning up on time for his lectures.
Towards the end of the year, the interruptions had developed to such a level that we knew that this last lecture was going to include an ‘epic interrupt’. (Continues in the book)
Read about it, and other stories at http://www.martinrichards.eu/books.html
Thanks for sharing this.
Knowing When to Add the Sugar
Focus on the connection between you and your students, reveal the structure behind your carefully designed lessons, so that adventure of learning is shared.
Learning comes quicker when students are fully engaged in the learning process, and not simply passive recipients of albeit necessary and useful information.The clear link between humour and Learning Styles and the modern understanding of how the human brain learns suggests that learning activities that include a combination of different kinds of thinking are most effective. According to neuroscientists, humour is the result of making connections between logical and intuitive thinking.
You will soon observe the following effects of using Humour:
CAtE book, available on Amazon (click the picture)
Coaching Tools, available for download (click the picture)
Teacher, facilitator and coach; Martin Richards trains educators to use a coaching approach all the work they do.