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Why You Should Never Teach for More Than 10 Minutes

Why You Should Never Teach for More Than 10 Minutes

Even adults can only focus on a speaker for about 10 minutes.

Even adults can only focus on a speaker for about 10 minutes.

Okay, okay, it is a snappy title. Obviously, you are going to teach for more than 10 minutes. Your students are counting on you to be in class with them all day.

What I really meant was lecture. You should never stand in front of your class and talk at them for more than 10 minutes. Lecture is the least effective way to share information, but it is how most information is shared in school.

Kids will stop paying attention if you talk for too long.

Kids will stop paying attention if you talk for too long.

The problem with lecturing is that people physically can't pay attention that long. Their brains won't let them. After about ten minutes, adults will stop paying attention. They will sit quietly and stare at the speaker, but they will be somewhere else completely. Of course, they will tune back in here and there, but what are they missing while they are gone?

So, if you are sharing something with your students, I am guessing you want them to hear all of it. To make sure this happens, don't talk for more than 10 minutes. Shorter than 10 minutes is even better. 

If this is new for you, set a timer. When the timer goes off, stop talking. The kids aren't going to hear what you say anyway.

There is one exception to the 10 minute rule. Stories. Our brains love stories. They will listen to stories much longer than anything else. Speakers can actually reset the audience's ten minute attention span by telling a story.

Time yourself to maker sure your students hear what you say.

Time yourself to maker sure your students hear what you say.

How can you use this in your class? Tell a story! 

Social studies is easy - it is full of interesting stories. Reading - stories! You may have more trouble coming up with stories for science, writing, and math, but it is worth the time you put into it. 

One way to turn lessons into stories is to tell the story behind the lesson. Why is the lesson important? Who first came up with these ideas? How did you learn this lesson? (Kids love stories from their teacher's life.) 

The best way to learn is by interacting with others.

The best way to learn is by interacting with others.

Another way is to anthropomorphize your subjects. The water cycle can be experienced by a single drop of water named Walter (close to water - get it?) A biome can be experiences by a family of elephants. Numbers in math can have personalities and feelings. Perhaps the numbers switch places as part of the Coomutative Property of Multiplication because they are trying to trick the teacher, but they keep coming up with the same answer anyway. 

Your stories may be silly. They may not make a lot of sense (like my examples), but the kids will remember them.

Share a story you use to teach in the comments!

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