Even the best teacher can benefit from a refresher course. Patrick Winston, a professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at MIT, has made a video presentation on his teaching techniques here.
1) While Dr. Winston usually teaches college students, his ideas are also applicable to WITS classrooms as well. One idea he stresses is to circle back and repeat your main point. He observes that at any given moment 20% of your audience is probably fogged out. For a young audience of primarily non-native English speakers, this estimate may be on the low side. In my elementary school classrooms, I try to embed my main points in several different places so children can hear critical information more than once and carve out space for new information.
2) Dr. Winston also suggests writing a road map on the board before you start. By the end of the lesson, you can refer back to this outline to show that you have completed your objectives and rewarded your listeners. This goes double for children; they are naturally curious and unusually prone to talking to their neighbors, so setting out a rough outline of the lesson will reduce their impatience and extend their attention span. Verbal punctuation – moments in your speech that serve the same function as the dashes in this sentence – will also help to focus an audience’s attention and bring drifting listeners back on point.
3) The most useful tip I found concerns the question and answer segment of the lesson. As Dr. Winston points out, a post-question pause of 5 seconds can seem like an eternity to the speaker while barely registering with your audience. Hearing Dr. Winston say that made me realize that my questions are too rushed; I now strive to allow at least 5 seconds for my audience to respond, after I thoughtfully pose questions my audience can answer.
That’s just me, though. I’d be interested in hearing if these tips work for you. Perhaps by combining these techniques with your own personal style of teaching, you can find ways to improve the hours you spend in the classroom.
posted by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools
(photo by jurvetson via flickr)