Keeping Students Interested in Classroom Teaching : Teacher’s Guide
The first month of school is already approaching the second half . While most students often remain upbeat and enthusiastic abut attending classes and being attentive in the first two weeks, their enthusiasm is likely to ebb as the time goes by. Things start falling into a routine pattern and students begin to zone out of classrooms much more frequently. Here are some essential tips for teachers which can extend the honeymoon period of classroom year round and keep students interested throughout the academic session !
Often students complain that they do not understand the need of studying. What will I ever achieve by learning geometry? What is the point of studying all of this world history? Or why waste time learning chemistry when I have to become a doctor? The answers to these questions cannot simply be because “that’s in your curriculum”. If you have not been able to explain the essence of your subject or teaching topic to the class then you have failed as an effective teacher. The most important link to getting students interested is successfully explaining to them the indispensability of what you are teaching. Once that is achieved students will become much more perceptive to your talk.
Commonly, some students who get zoned out in between the lectures also drag other students into similar behavior. It is important to not allow any kid to enter into a passive time and keep all of them actively engaged. The conventional listening and reciting format needs to be supplemented with active learning. Encourage activities that employ different skill sets of students, such as plays, presentations, related movie screening, reviewing short articles and stories, sharing thoughts, class room discussions, creative group works, graphical representations, presentations, class quizzes etc.
It is not enough to just blatantly read out the textbook and the course content. Teachers have to become excellent story tellers. Try to relate the textbook to your life, tell students about your personal experiences and memories. Sometimes relate the stories to the content you are teaching, while at other times just share the experience or some life skill lesson and ease their class room struggles.
Often teachers also try to put down certain behaviors in classroom by giving avoidant instructions and even threatening students with negative consequences. This kind of a behavior is more likely to close the communication link between you and your students. A teacher must always emphasize on positive messages. Politely make it clear to students as to what you want them to do, without any negative consequence threat. Mention your expectations repeatedly to the students but avoid repeating your instructions to grab your students’ attention in the first time.
Do not use challenging tones in class; always try to be reasonable and polite with students. Try to give an alternative solution to the trouble makers and engage them in some productive activity. Students are more likely to cooperate with you if you appeal to their reason positively and make them feel valued by employing soft tone language using “please” and “thank you” often.
Also never try to impose your will and power upon students. Allow them enough room to take decisions. Take their opinions regarding home assignments, choice of technique, deadline decisions, allow them to find their own group partners, choose their themes and topics etc. This will allow students to feel more engaged in the classroom. Always invite ideas and advice on simple matters from your students. This will instill important decision making capabilities as well as self confidence and respect for you as a teacher.
Do not label students right away as being capable or dumb or incapable. While it is important to be able to segregate quick learners from slow learners within the first few weeks of teaching, however do not reject the incapable lot too soon. Segregating students should allow the teacher to employ different teaching tactics with different set of students. The teacher can also alter various activities to suit the need of different students differently. It is equally important for the teacher to get actively involved with the students to understand their interests and capabilities. The important source of such information is your students and their parents. Ask students to right a quick note describing some of their passion and read them. Also take regular feedback from your students and ask them what they like about your style of teaching, what difficulties are they facing, is the pace of teaching alright, if anyone is feeling any difficulty in following what you are teaching.
Ask them to make quick notes such as what they learnt in the last week of teaching. Encourage them to write a short summary of the lesson you taught. A friend of mine did this activity after every lesson where she asked all students to frame one question that they class think is suitable for asking in exam from that lesson and frame its model answer as well. Then all students would frame one question and model answer each and share with everyone else in the class. This will promptly make you aware of how much the students are able to follow what you are teaching in the class and benefit students also. However most teachers refrain from using quick notes, or frequent small class testing method because of the additional burden of reading and correcting them. While this might take extra time but will definitely help your students by keeping them percipient. Also you can encourage partner exchange programs where students can read each other’s answers, correct them. Randomly pick certain pairs and ask them to read their answers.
As a teacher you have to be flexible enough to help both active and fast learning students as well as the challenging kids. Certain kids need much more help in initiating something new by themselves. These kids often need extra help in getting past their troubles. Help such students by providing a clear focus and direction. Give them some pre-made theme, list of to-do stuff, begin Q&A round with them and get them started with simpler Qs, partner them up with more active kids. Tailor their project to include some of their own ability. This is more likely to get them interested in the task and get involved.
Once the students start on the desired goals and are paying attention in what you are teaching get rid of any distracting object such a mobile phone. Give students a 5 minutes break in the middle of lectures and ask them to use cell phones only during that interval. Be attentive for students who are having trouble keeping up in the class. Talk to them and address their anxiety issues and problems they are facing.
Teachers should always be judicious and precise in their talks. Encourage your students to talk more and become a good listener. Ask their opinions on the subject matter. Open class room discussions on various study topics. Allow your students to become much more expressive of their opinion. Allow students to actively take positions and defend them in class discussions. This will engage students more actively and break the mundane routine of classroom into an active discussion sphere. At the end of class ask all students to write down “what they learnt from today’s class” and invite volunteers to summarize the teachings. Also while talking the teacher must never lose track of the plot and drift to some off-beat topic. This is most likely to zone students out. Supplement talking with activities that develop critical thinking in the students.
Asking questions in between the classes will allow students to more attentively follow your lessons. Initiate a healthy participation for all students. Also give an equal chance to all students to participate in answering questions, and not just the brightest lot. If you ask a certain question in class then wait for all students to find the answer and ask all of them to raise hands once they have solved it. After wards invite volunteers to declare answers and ask other students whether the answer is correct or if anyone has any alternate method to approach the question. It is important to allow all students to feel fair participation. After finishing each topic always ask students if they want to clear any doubts and queries. If no student asks anything then summarize the topic for them again by asking questions back to them. Try to ask questions that can be approached from different angles so that different students can provide different inputs and all students can critically reason out the soundness of their answers. Create draw of lot to select students randomly for answering.
Insist students to approach their classmates and group members for solutions before they seek assistance from you. Provide hints and encourage them to look up the solutions themselves instead of just giving it out to them.
You might be a teacher but you are also a human and are bound to make a mistake. Apologize when you do! If you have accidentally vented out on some student them apologize to them, let them know the reason and promise to be more careful in future. If there is an art that every teacher needs to master it is that of sugar coating. No matter how wrong, how bad or how frustrating any student or work is you have to sugar coat it for the kids. Never confront them in an ugly manner. Also emphasize the positive side and encourage them to try out your suggestions. Do not come down harshly on them. Never put down or tease any student or their effort, else the child may never feel comfortable in approaching you in future. Try to be as much supportive as possible. Be fair to every student. Offer certain basic rewards for efforts and time students put in; while encouraging them with extra performance incentives. Never let the students feel that you are partial or taking sides, else they will never focus on your point.
And lastly Smile, and make students smile. Be funny; tell quick witted stories, jokes and incidents. Keep the class atmosphere light and stress free. Students hate coming to the classes of grumpy teachers. So be cheerful and smile always. This makes you more approachable and students will always love listening to your accounts.
If you are a teacher do tell us what techniques and tactics you employ in your classroom to maintain the interest of your students. We would love to hear your comments !