Have you ever attended a class or workshop which left you “flat” while all around you people raved about the teacher, and you wondered what you missed that they did not? Maybe it isn’t what you missed. Have you ever taught information you were excited about, but didn’t feel the others caught your vision?
Sometimes presenters teach others they way they would want things presented; when we are the presenter, we need to be aware of others’ learning styles or the end result can be that people who learn the way we learn tell us what a wonderful job we have done, and yet others can be left largely uninspired. If you regularly teach groups of people, whether children or adults, it can make such a difference to keep in mind the different ways folks learn. In order to engage those around you, use varied methods of presentation so that everyone has a chance to catch at least something.
- Chalkboards/whiteboards are great IF you are a visual learner, but not so great for kinesthetic folks UNLESS you allow them to write on the board. They can scribe for you, or write answers to questions you’ve asked.
- Try adding music, pictures, maps, and interactive activities to whatever you are teaching. It is an invitation to others to join in the fun.
- Invite a guest speaker to help.
- Spend time writing well-thought-out questions. Give them something about which to think, and give them time to quietly write before they need to answer. There is nothing wrong with a little quiet before you get a response!
- One of my favorite ways to involve those who seem bored or tuned out is to bring flannel board story figures and script, and have them retell the story you’re discussing.
- Make a meal, or learn to say basic sentences in the language of the country you are studying for geography.
- Draw outside pictures on the sidewalk that apply to what you did during the class.
- Pass out paper and other supplies, and ask them to draw or paint illustrations for your newly-finished chapter or even reference book. What did they learn? (You can do this with adults; watch ’em cringe.)
- Write a review or an advertisement for the class.
- Create new words based on the information given, and put together a class dictionary. Let them know ahead of time that this will be happening, so that they can be looking for ideas!
- Break class members into pairs or small groups and allow some discussion.
- Go on field trips, or bring relevant visuals and hands-on activities to the class.
- Create a game to reinforce the principles or information taught.
Giving up some of the control in a classroom setting can be frightening. I get that. You start class with a plan. You have material you want to cover. But if the point of teaching is not simply the dissemination of information, but the learning of it, you MUST involve those around you. It makes all the difference in the world.
And it’s more fun!