Dr Ali Khwaja shows how teachers and parents can reinvent their teaching methods to make learning a desirable activity for students.
I have been teaching for almost 30 years, but I have never encountered a class as bad as my present one. Most of the kids just don’t seem to be interested in studying,” shared a very knowledgeable and committed teacher with me the other day. Lately, this has become quite the common refrain amongst most teachers. The problem is perhaps that teachers are not given much inputs on upgrading their teaching methodologies to adapt better to the multi-media savvy student.
Often some teachers get exasperated by students who are inattentive and distracted. The culprits, they believe, are TV, mobiles, and computers. These communication media are here to stay, and they will attract children more and more in the days to come. Instead of fighting a losing battle with the distracters, why not learn their techniques and use their own ways to woo back the students?
Here are some must-learn pointers from media:
What’s in it for me?
Every viewer is convinced that the movie or TV program has something useful, interesting or entertaining to him. On the other hand most students do not know why they are studying a particular subject, or how it will be useful to them.
Their motivation level would go up significantly if the first few classes in every academic year are reserved for awareness programs, preferably involving experts (who could be sourced from parents themselves) to speak on the topic.
A brainstorming can be done on which careers necessarily require expertise in this subject being taught, and how this subject is useful even in other careers that apparently require different skills. One interesting example I often quote in my talks to students is that airplane pilots require a good knowledge of Geography, and most youngsters who neglect their high school Geography thinking that it is part of Social Sciences, which is not relevant to them, regret greatly and lose out in their pilot training.
The media always gives advance publicity, in the form of trailers and announcements, of the forthcoming programs highlighting some of their best features. Teachers can do this at the beginning of the year, term, and even announcing the topic to be covered next week or next class. Students could do this exercise themselves by browsing through forthcoming topics and browsing the internet about the topics that will be taught soon.
Most TV episodes start with a “recap” of the previous one, again pointing out to something significant or of curiosity that was left incomplete. Teachers can spend the first few minutes “recapping” what was taught, asking students to recall, or even asking them to write, draw a chart or download some material on the topic already covered.
Most programs have “commercial breaks”. A distracted viewer who wants to visit the loo, get a glass of water, or send a text message waits for that break when he can catch up with whatever he wants to do. Teachers can consider one or two short breaks during a 40-50 minute class, allowing students to even talk loudly, make a noise, get up and stretch, or sing a song.
Video Killed The Radio Star!
It is well established that the visual medium is far more effective than the audio. That is why TV has engrossed viewers, something a century of radio could not do. Teachers need to go beyond being “radios” and use audio-visual media. Simple techniques include getting up and walking around, using hand and arm movement, pointing to the blackboard or to a chart, encouraging students to bring something related to the topic that everyone can see.
Every accomplished actor makes each viewer feel that he is talking to the individual directly in 1:1 contact, and that makes the viewer feel important and attentive. Same way, teachers need to make constant eye contact with every one of their students, generally letting their eyes follow a ‘W’ and then ‘M’ pattern so that all get included. Holding the gaze at a particularly inattentive or naughty student for an extra second sends out a strong message to him.
The Big B Way
Any TV program that involves the brain and seeks responses from the viewers is always very popular. When one person is answering Amitabh Bachchan’s questions in KBC, millions of viewers are racking their brains for the correct answer. Teachers may suddenly ask questions to students to get their attention.
At times, you may give them a slip of paper to write and submit immediately. Shooting “rapid-fire” questions on a topic recently concluded also creates excitement and stimulates the mind. Alternative answers could be given for the children to choose, and then the merits and de-merits of each answer can be discussed.
Zooming On The Star
Any aspect that needs deep attention of viewers is inevitably zoomed, highlighted, announced by voice-overs or by titles. Teachers can periodically write keywords on the blackboard, make a flow chart of what was taught so far, make the children repeat in chorus an important definition, or point and even make them write down just the important points under bullets.
The best form of advertisement is perhaps a viewer who has seen a particular movie or serial and praises it. Teachers can get the bright students to talk about their interest in the particular topic, even invite senior students to come in for a few minutes and tell how they enjoyed and benefited from that subject.
Create role models of admired people who liked the subject (example, Dr. Abdul Kalam was very keen to study Physics because as a child in village, he was fascinated with how the airplanes he saw far above in the sky could defy gravity and move with such great speed. He knew he would get his answers through Physics).
Similarly, parents and students can team up to improve interest and motivation by just exploring the significance of each subject. If the parent knows any subject well, he can share some insights with the child.
The parent can also show curiosity in knowing more about a subject, and thereby becoming a role-model to the child, since he is willing to learn even at that age!
As annual and Board exams draw closer, teachers and parents are forever on a pressurizing spree! Instead, use the above pointers to make studying a fun and enriching experince.
Allow the child to develop a deeper interest with curiosity, and the child will begin to desire learning and exploring every aspect of the world around him. In the 21st century, it is not those with the highest marks who will be the most successful professionals, but those who have learnt how to learn, unlearn, and relearn, who will reach for the stars...
(The writer is an education counsellor and life skills coach)