Improvisation is the best way to reinvent teaching

Education is evolving in leaps and bounds, and as such, educators are kept on their heels in search of better ways to organise and deliver instruction to diverse populations of students. Even when we sharpen our skills and keep up to speed with the advancements in pedagogy, we are often dragged down by unprecedented classroom situations.

Any educator will tell you that proper preparation is key in teaching; however, despite thorough preparation, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. In fact, one of the most difficult, yet enjoyable, parts of their job is that it is never the same. Children are unpredictable, and no two lessons are ever the same; therefore, we must always think on our feet and have unprecedented contingency plans. According to, a teacher makes 1500 decisions every working day. Our lesson plans do not hold Biblical authority and must be pivoted at the slightest sign of discrepancy with the classroom reality.

Improvisation can be done in the lesson content. Take for instance, a kindergarten teacher who discovers that some of her pupils are not able to doodle, much less scribble letters because they are just learning to hold their pencils in the right angle to scribble. Would it be ethically/ professionally sound for the teacher to carry on with the lesson as designed? Definitely not! This is one of those instances when you push your lesson plan aside and create a mini lesson to teach the learners how to hold a pen using fun activities. In education, there are times you will fully prepare for x only to be greeted by a y situation in the classroom that x cannot solve.

Improvisation can also be done in instructional methodology and classroom activities. In some occasions, a planned activity may turn out to be too confusing to the learners or not very effective in enhancing learning. You do not have to stick to your guns; once you detect that learners are not getting it, switch to a simpler means. If running dictation does not help with teaching spelling, try information gap. It is all about making the quick necessary adjustments. In the middle of a unit, survey your students to find out if they feel the unit is effective and what it needs to be more effective. You could also do a simple exit ticket to ask students what concepts they had trouble with and their suggestions for working through those troubles.

Finally, you can also improvise the teaching aid. If there are no textbooks and projectors to illustrate something, create an aid from scratch, or find other ways like demonstrations, role-plays or any other to address the aspect. In English, for example, I can use students of different height and body weight to teach the comparative and superlative adjectives. I can glean from students’ knowledge or preferences like football teams or movies to teach any aspect of grammar. Using stones or bottle tops to teach counting can also work when teaching numbers, or sliced bread when teaching fractions. It is such small innovations that increase knowledge retention.

All in all, effective learning emerges from situations that ignite curiosity and build from personal examples and common place objects. You do not need to be in a state of the art classroom to be able to effectively impart knowledge. Teaching is an art that is built on the foundations of creativity and innovation.