Ever walked into a class and the mood is just boring, and the drive seems to be way too little from both the learner and the instructor? All one wants at that particular time is to walk out of that class and do something else; something else that isn’t classroom or book-related.
However, do we sit back and ask ourselves if this is a challenge to the education system or its final impact on students’ performance? Can teachers do anything to make learning more interesting? What is that element of change that can bring back the spark into the class?
Some people argue that the overall system has been over ridden with the old lecture methods which modern pedagogy instructors have also embraced. They also say that in the spirit that old is gold, teachers have failed to change or rather to incorporate new styles and approaches to learning.
So, the question lingers on; what differences can both the learner and the teacher make to make the classroom experience more interesting and more attractive?
A recent survey by Indiana University on student engagement shows that two out of three students say they are bored in class every day. In the students’ lingua, school can be a real yawn. About 30 per cent of the respondents claimed that they are bored due to lack of interaction with the teacher, and the other 70 claim that the material being taught isn’t interesting. The same reason of boredom could explain the high rate of drop-outs, especially in high schools.
Yazzie-Mintz, an education expert, says that schools should pay a lot of attention to what students say and their reasons for dropping out of school. Then the question that remains is; what can we do to bring back fun to our classes? Yazzie-Mintz recommends that the teacher should listen to the learners want. Learners want more interactive classes, activities that involve interaction amongst them.
Students generally prefer school work to homework, and a teacher is seen as ‘cooler’ if they give exercises in class and not as assignments. The ability of a teacher to understand the learners want makes the approach easier and the classroom setting more interactive.
More learners feel that with the world changing, especially in terms of technology, their classroom should get dynamic. Their lessons will be more interesting if more tech-leaning. Their learning should involve PowerPoint presentations, internet research, video conferencing, YouTube and creation of podcasts, among others. For instance, posting their classroom presentations on YouTube will make that history lessons on Napoleonic wars less archaic and time beat. These are ideas that appeal to the younger generation.
The lesson can be spiced up by interesting reviews on a just-concluded topic. Instead of a monotonous voice ringing in their heads after a biology class by the teacher trying to summarise, let the learners hold debates on whether the heart is more important than the brain or a cloze word puzzle on the parts on a flower. This keeps the learner alert, motivated and the desire to know is greater.
International scholar Brian Mooney came up with interesting facts that caused a stir across social media; hip-hop as a learning tool. In his own experience, Mooney says that his English classes begin with a round- table hip-hop presentation on the day’s topic. Students round up, introduce a beat and create rhythmic poetry around the class. This has not only killed the public stigma that hip-hop promotes violence and other societal ills, but rather proved to advance student engagement in class, boost self-confidence and expression as well as increase memorability through creation of musical notes. In addition hip-hop helps improve tactics in literal style analysis, especially through comparisons of different artistes, poets and their difference in choice of words. Hip-hop is a genre of music that is very appealing to the younger generation, so who wouldn’t wish to learn and create music at the same time?
Class excursions and field trips not only bring enjoyment and fun but create long lasting memories. These outings improve the students’ mood and attitude which are basically the biggest doors to learning.
Sara Briggs, a teacher of English, admonishes a boring teacher, especially the one that will speak in that soft pitch throughout the lesson and sounds like a broken record. The students mind drifts off immediately he/she walks in. As a teacher, vary your tone, pitch and speed. Spice up your delivery by giving variety to the voice. These sound waves keep a student in touch, just like in drama; your class presence can be a total success or a big flop.
An interesting teacher lets the authority go down, brings out the goofy self, plays with the lesson content, and incorporates mystery in the lessons, leaving a learner with that yearning for tomorrow’s lesson!
Show you care, deal with each student as an entity, meet each learner at their differentiation point, let the learner feel part and parcel of the greater group.
Remember every lesson is a show, put up an unforgettable performance, replace the lecture with conversation and make each show new and always unpredictable! Make school fun!
Sheila Kawira is an English language teacher at Mother Mary Complex School