A little while ago I tweeted this article from the Atlantic on the benefits of lecture. After many years of treating lecture like a pariah, it seems that the author concluded that teachers should play to their strengths. As an elementary teacher, I understand that it is important to include a variety of teaching strategies in order to play to the different learning styles of your students. Students in my class can be found working in groups to solve problems, create projects or debate a topic. Yet I often found myself wanting to tell a story, to talk a little, to play up the listening comprehension and let the kids practice taking notes or listening actively.
If I am being honest, the lecture is a favorite for me especially when it is a topic, like history, that I am passionate about. I love how students come alive, develop questions and expand on new vocabulary. I think the bottom line is that students need to be able to adapt to a variety of styles just as teachers need to adapt to a variety of students. The skill of listening, deciding what piece needs more contextualization, and asking about it are necessary in a variety of authentic settings that students will face in college and/ or in careers.
Lecture does not cause poor student engagement. Boring lectures do, and therefore I have decided that in order for me to use this method, I try to make sure the lecture can meet the following criteria:
1. There is a metaphor or relevant link to the students lives that I can communicate quickly to “hook” them at the beginning of the class.
2. I know the topic or concept in depth and would be able to answer a variety of questions on it rather than just present the basic facts. Teachers need to know the entire iceberg even if they are only required to teach the students the tip.
3. Students have something to physically engage them while I am talking. This looks different at various levels, but for example they might be taking notes or using gestures at intervals to reiterate conceptual knowledge. (Post to follow on Whole Brain Teaching)
4. I can find appropriate visuals or props related to the concept to improve understanding.
How do you use lecture based instruction?