You heard the lectures from your parents growing up. And then you went to school and heard even more lectures. And once you arrived to college, you were just about lectured-out. But now you teach (or you make presentations as part of the work you do), and you do what you know best. You lecture! Okay. Perhaps you do not, but when I know when I first stepped into the college classroom in 2002, that’s what I did!
Regardless of whether lecturing is the focal point of your teaching (or presentation) or not, remember the points herein to help you work toward achieving your goals while inviting student participation during the session. If you do so - if you try these tips - then your students will walk away tuned in and having actually learned, and you will leave class with a sense of accomplishment in having achieved new heights in student engagement! (And you'll notice "presentations" keeps sneaking into this article; these tips are applicable to anyone who's standing before an audience and who wants to make it a captive one, leaving everyone wanting more. So if you present in any capacity, replace "lecture" or "class" with "presentation," and charge on!)
Studies show that people are only fully engaged for the first 18 to 30 seconds someone is speaking to them before "out" thoughts start creeping in, thoughts such as dinner plans, errands to run, email messages that need responses, et cetera, et cetera. (And be honest; you are having "out" thoughts right this very moment! Come back to me!) At the start of your lecture, think of how you might help students become more metacognitive about their thinking and more engaged in what you have to share with them during your session.
Within the first five minutes of class, you must excite, engage, involve, and inform your students. (I learned that one from facilitation extraordinare Michael Wilkinson! It made so much sense until I had to tweak it for use in the classroom. And his book on facilitation techniques offers additional invaluable tools!) Engage them by making connections between the session topic and them, and involve them by getting input from them. The inform part is easy; it is the objective material you provide in your lectures. It is the excitement part that requires a little more effort. Excite them simply by telling them how their lives, success, abilities will be exponentially enhanced with what you share in that class, that if they can learn X, Y, and Z, then all of the A, B, and C that can come their way.
Think back to the start of this article and how I shared if you do ___, then ___ would happen. You were excited! You wanted (and did!) immediately dive into reading, right?
This is good, but you may ask "Bridgett, how do I keep the momentum going beyond the first five minutes of class?" This is how:
Your course content is like a buffet; you have so much information you can provide students. At the same time, your students' minds are similar to buffet plates. In 1956, George A. Miller formulated the chunk concept as he presented evidence that the working memory is limited in capacity. Miller stated that working memory could hold seven (plus or minus two) chunks of information at once, but it is now thought that the number is closer to four or five bits of information.
The takeaway is if a learner's working memory is full, then the excess information will just drop out. It means if you are explaining something complex and the learner must hold several factors in mind to understand it, then you will need to chunk information into bite-sized pieces and present it in organized sections.
So the final point is to ensure you provide students with chunks of information - no more than twelve to fifteen minutes of content - then pause and let them digest that information. You might use a formative assessment, a classroom assessment technique, for them to process information, then give them another chunk of information. You may have heard the lessons a hundred times and can regurgitate the material at the drop of a dime; students are hearing your content for the first time. They need time to think. Consider this: If I ask you a question as simple as "what did you have for dinner yesterday," you would have to stop and think. The questions you ask students are far more involved. As such, give your students that necessary time to process much more complex content.
And you may find twelve minutes is too long; know it is not a hard and fast rule. You know your students best; if you see they are starting to check out, pause to provide a classroom assessment technique, and give them time to fully comprehend what you have shared.
If you want more ideas for how to lecture without fear, then visit this link, which has terrific ideas for public speakers and educators alike. Additionally, you are looking for ideas to start the first day of class, although they focus on the elementary classroom, here are some tips that work well for any classroom.
Finally, check out these habits of some of the best public speakers; adopt them, and you are guaranteed to wow any audience.