Dec 7, 2016

The 3 E's of Teaching

Are students bored?  

How often have you really asked yourself this question?  It is all too easy to stand at the front of the room on a daily basis, with the goal of teaching a lesson - often as you have always done it for  years - and never think about or wonder whether students are bored with your class.  Yes, we see kids who are disconnected, but we often attribute this to apathy or laziness.  

This discussion of whether students are bored came up in a workshop we had this week on Classroom Management.  In a recent survey, it was found that 69% of our students reported being bored with their classes.  When we began to discuss this surprising statistic, we discussed ways that we could avoid this situation.  

One thing I mentioned from my own experience, is that it always comes down to student engagement.  If you aren't keeping students engaged in the curriculum, it is all too easy to send them into fits of boredom.  So as a result of this discussion, I was prompted to write this article, with the suggestion I gave at the workshop. 

To avoid Student Boredom....

For years I would come to work with the same plan in mind - Lecture, seatwork, lab, test.  But this simply does not work with the 21st Century learners we face today. I had to change the way I taught.  So here is how I remedied the situation.  Every day that I worked with my students, I would break up the time so that they never had the chance to get bored.  I created lessons that would engage them at every point, and change things up every 10-15 minutes.  Each time I approached a new unit, I kept the 3 E's in mind - Explore, Explain, & Engage.

Explore 

For this part of the lesson, I would find some kind of activity, such as a video, that covered the topic of the day.  
  • Look for a video that introduces your topic, or at least explains it in a way that is subtly different from your style.  You can then expand on the topic later.  
  • Make sure your video is short and to the point.  Try to find videos are are 5 minutes or less if possible.  But don't go beyond 15 minutes, as you'll lose them.
  • Use YouTube to get started.  There are many subject specific channels out there that can help.  A quick search of YouTube in your specific subject will yield some good results.  
  • If you are looking for a broad category such as Science or English, filter your search to find a Channel in your Subject Area.  
  • Here are a few good ones....
  • When finished watching the video, take your students into a discussion that isn't necessarily focused on the content.  focus on questions like, "What did you like most about the video?"  "List a few things that you learned from the video" or "What do you already know about this topic that the video covered?"

Explain

The next step in the process is to take a moment to explain the topic as you normally would in a lecture.  The key component to this part is to refrain from making this a "Sage on the stage" lecture.  Take about 15 minutes to expand on what was covered by the video.  Allow students to ask questions along the way.  You can do this by allowing students to use their phones with one of the following services or options:

  • Google Slides Presenter View - create your lecture using Google Slides, and then use Presenter View to allow them to ask questions along the way.

  • Use Today's Meet - You can create a Backchannel page that students can navigate to on their phone.  Students can ask questions using Today's meet.  They can then reference the site later if they want to see the backchannel of questions.  

Engage

Once you have completed this section of the lesson, its time to move on to something Hands On!  Find an activity -  a science lab, an interactive activity using Google Apps, or a Discussion Forum online - that ties to your subject, but allows students to reflect, respond, and learn by doing.  If you find it difficult to gather materials for an activity, go digital and use interactives such as:

There are tons of activities available on the web, and a simple Google search will help you get started.  These are just a few to give you an idea of how and where to start.  

In using this method of covering material with my students, I've found that it also serves students with different learning styles.  If I have students who are Auditory or Read/Write, they are served best by the Explore or Explain phase.  Visual Learners also benefit from these stages.  The Kinesthetic learners really start to pull it altogether in the Engage phase.  

Hopefully this helps you in addressing student engagement and general high school boredom.  If you have tips of your own, please feel free to add to the Comments section.