Varying the pace and energy of a lesson can make a significant difference to the students’ level of engagement and their responsiveness to the activities presented. This is due to a few factors, such as students’ attention span, their learning style, the difficulty of the topic presented, the necessity to spend longer on one point and less on another, and so on.
When all these aspects are taken into account, it is not surprising that lessons should be created around different time and energy patterns. So, whereas the beginning of a lesson usually entails a rather quick introduction to the main topic, this is generally followed by a slower activity that leads on to the main part of the lesson. The actual teaching stage usually involves rather slow and calm activities, allowing learners enough time to process the new information. However, the second part of the lesson sees the initial dynamics repeating themselves, to provide a snappier pace when learners have already encountered the information taught.
Sometimes teachers find it hard to think of ways to liven up stages or include others that are quieter to provide a change in the pace of the lesson. Most times all it takes is tweaking the original activities, so here are a few ideas that might be helpful and don’t require too much preparation.
Making your stages more lively:
- Try to change some activities into competitions and award points to the different teams. This is a simple way to inject some energy into a stage that might otherwise result a bit dull.
- Set a time limit and project an online clock on the board, so that students feel pressurised and finish the task more quickly.
- Insert some races in the stages that need to be snappier (e.g. races to the board, outside the classroom, to the panel with the relevant information, to their partners, etc.).
- Brainstorm ideas from the whole class.
- Have a class vote on the best idea, text, performance, etc.
- Get students to swap places for different activities.
- Get students to give you their answers by either standing or sitting down (e.g. standing could mean “yes”, while sitting down could mean “no”).
- Get students to mime actions, expressions, gestures, information to be learnt or revised.
- Get students to work in groups and pass their information in circles, so that it gets completed little by little with everybody’s contribution.
Providing moments for learners to cool down:
- Ask students to think of what they have learnt at the end of the activity/lesson.
- Get students to underline information in different colours.
- Get students to create mind-maps about the topic dealt with.
- Get students to write possible questions that they might have about the topic, and that they might want to find out more about.
- Put students in teams and ask them to create a quiz about what they have just learnt, by either researching some information on the Internet, or by looking at their books, papers, notes. The quiz could be used at a later stage to challenge the opposing team.
- Get students to represent graphically the topic of the lesson (e.g. through diagrams, charts, drawings…).
- Get students to summarise in groups the main point of a lesson or to work out the reason why they started from a certain activity and then moved onto a different one.
- Get students to swap texts, handouts, papers, and make some corrections to their partners’ written texts.
- Get students to create flash cards representing the language or the concepts learnt. These could then be displayed around the room or reused in other lessons.
- Get students to create a glossary of the items learnt in the session, adding examples to remind them of the context.
So next time you have a lesson, why don’t you try out one of these ideas?
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