Distracted students in class?

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Distracted students in class even after an intriguing opening, clear objectives, important checkpoints, and a summative conclusion. Use these three engagement features that were highlighted in a polling exercise to hold their attention in the lesson.

As a teacher, I was curious to identify the features that made lessons engaging, hence, a classroom poll was done with students I teach biology and chemistry. They identified four main elements which are the use of questions, visual aids, and illustrations, conversational manner, and enthusiasm or warmth. With this foreknowledge, a social media poll was carried out and these three features were selected.

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Visual aids and illustrations

What is the most effective approach to remembering something? Connecting it to something unforgettable like a picture or story. In the poll, 75% of participants selected visual aid and illustration as major keys to interesting lessons. A research paper highlighted that we live in an era of visualization hence visual aids are part of the day-to-day activities that should be incorporated into learning which makes sense why a classroom is made up of mostly visual learners today. One research paper saw an increase in information retention in students when using a visual aid to teach. Illustrations positively impact the students as they can imagine what is presented to them. Take for example trying to explain ionic bonding to students. One can use this simple imagery of visualizing ionic bonding as a date: two atoms (similar to humans) meet, and only one offers electrons while the other receives (only the guy buys the food). A chemistry teacher used this ten years ago and I still remember it. Proof of increased and long-term information retention. For enhanced student application, the same technique may be used to integrate basic concepts into everyday events. This will guarantee that students are engaged today and will remember these crucial principles when a practical application is expected of them in the future. What other ways were suggested to make lessons interesting?

Empathy, warmth, and enthusiasm

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In the classroom poll, students mentioned that their readiness to participate in class is dependent on the learning environment. This is what the Department of Education (DfE) of the United Kingdom requires in its teachers’ standards list as the first point, to establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils rooted in mutual respect. One article suggested that enthusiastic teachers foster great emotional connections that lead to improved attitudes toward the subject and ultimately engaging learning environment. When a teacher joyfully delivers a lively and motivating lesson, the energy is contagious and passed on to the students. Thereafter how the teacher responds to the students if coupled with warmth and empathy were necessary will make students feel free and understood in class. These three aspects increase students’ desire to learn and want to share their thoughts in a class by participation.

Conversational Style

Delivering clear, intelligible explanations confidently to increase topic knowledge is one method to have memorable classes. That is why conversational style or manner was the third feature that social media participants selected. This could be because a conversational style encourages the teacher to personalize information to students for example

  • “Shall we calculate the result now?” (vs. “The tutor wants you to calculate the result now”; McLaren et al., 2011)

  • “During inhaling, the [your] diaphragm moves down creating more space for the [your] lungs” (Mayer et al., 2004)

Both examples personally addressed the learner, which fosters the mentality that the instructional material being delivered is specifically for them, hence, is positively perceived, making grasping it easier. Further, it focuses on having ongoing learner-teacher interaction which assists teachers in getting feedback on learners’ understanding. No wonder we remember lessons where we felt the teacher was discussing with us and not lecturing.

How might all of these elements be incorporated into each lesson? Using digital technology tools! There is a tool that can assist with lesson planning such that the teacher knows all the visual aids required and can think of illustrations in advance. This will help them be enthusiastic, conversational, and confident in their delivery creating a dynamic learning environment beneficial for students. Further, it incorporates in-class digital assessment for personalized private learner-teacher interaction. Thus students can freely express themselves. As a result, identifying pupils who are still struggling with the material is easier. Empathy and kindness come to play in assisting the student catch up. If curious about having engaging lessons that benefit both teacher and student sign up for access here and be among the first to make your students learning experiences seamless, fun, and more connected.

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