Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lecturn

Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lectern*
*To be sung to the tune of Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover”

The problem is all inside their heads
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle
To be free
There must be fifty ways
To leave your lectern

You just turn and chat, Pat
Try a journal write, Dwight
You don’t need to just talk, Doc,
Just listen to me

Don’t make a fuss, Gus
You might need to discuss much
Pull up a chair, Blair
And set your kids free

So I am a lousy lecture student. I am not an auditory learner and I have trouble listening. And paying attention. And taking decent notes without a book in front of me.

I am grateful that I went to a small college for undergrad and was in a small grad school program where I wasn’t one of thousands in a class. I’m pretty sure I would have failed any class where my teacher didn't stop and breathe every few minutes.

We often think we are preparing our kids for the next level (middle school kids for high school; high school kids for college) by teaching them how to learn through lecture. We lecture with the promise that they will thank us in college when they are good lecture-learners

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I found a wonderful book last year called “50 Ways To Leave Your Lectern” by Constance Staley. What surprised me is that this is a book for college professors. This book is full of ways to break up lectures and help college professors move away from the long lecture mode and into small chunks and other teaching methods.

So if *some* college professors are trying to lecture less, that should lessen the pressure on us as middle and high school teachers, to do as much preparation for lecture-style learning. We can take one thing off our gigantic “to-do” lists and spend a little less time worrying if our kids will be good in traditional style college classes.

I read a recent article in Science magazine about a University of Washington, Seattle meta-analysis of 225 different studies of undergraduate teaching methods. A new study finds that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods.”

Teaching approaches that turned students into active participants reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation. Um, I haven’t taken stats in a while, but that’s HUGE!!!!

So how can we adapt our lectures? The best way is to mix it up every ten minutes. Set a timer and when it goes off, switch gears. Turn and talk. Do some reading, some writing, some discussion. Let kids move their bodies, use their brains, be active.

I’m not sure I can give you fifty ways to leave your lectern without completely plagiarizing that book, but how about....

FIFTEEN Ways to Leave Your Lectern! (set reasonable goals, right?)
1.    Turn and clarify, Mai
2.    Quick write, Dwight
3.    Thumbs up/thumbs down, Brown
4.    Draw a picture, Fisher
5.    Analyze a doc, Jacques
6.    Analyze a practice test item, Tyson
7.    Answer the benchmark, Clark
8.    Turn and ask a pal, Sal
9.    Gimme five, Clive
10.  Quick debate, Nate
11.  Gallery Walk, John Locke
12.  Graphic Organize, Guys
13.  Annotate, Kate
14.  Write a recap, Chap
15.  Elaborate, Tait
I double-dog dare you to try TWO or THREE of these this week consistently. Train your students how to build these into your short lectures and let me know how it goes!

As always, I love to hear from you! Let me know how it goes!

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