Thursday, January 12, 2012

Say hello first

Lion tamer greeting
his students
During training sessions, lion tamers are primarily concerned with developing new behaviors or refining existing behaviors.  Likewise, in each class session teachers are primarily concerned with moving on to new concepts.

Lion tamers rarely just "get to it."  They instead take a moment to connect with each animal in the training session.  They literally talk to them and give them a pat or rub.  Lions LOVE rubs! This engages the animal in a way that helps them focus on the trainer and on the training environment.  It also sets a positive, engaging mood in which to begin the "real work" of the session.

Then a lion tamer will ask each animal to repeat a behavior they have recently learned.  Or perhaps an older behavior that relates somehow to the new behavior that will be the focus of that training session.  This gives the animal a sense of success and accomplishment.  Of course, it also brings to their consciousness the whole idea of performing and following directions.  If it's a behavior that relates to the day's lesson, then there's an added benefit . . . it gives them some practice in movements that they'll shortly be asked to do.

Beginning with a positive introduction and a quick review of previous learning is also a useful strategy in the classroom.  

Engaging your students in some friendly banter before the class starts is a smooth way to get their attention focused on you and the learning environment.  And it sure beats an off-putting shout to "sit down and shut up!"  I can't stress this "engagement" concept enough. It enhances classroom discipline and, more importantly, enhances student learning.  Unless and until you can engage your learners, you're going to have a tough time!

A quick review doesn't have to take long.  It could take many forms.  In my anatomy and physiology lectures, I usually start by summarizing the main points of the previous class session.  I may have some extra words about a concept that serves as the foundation for the new topic about to be addressed.  I may even pose a clicker question on a review topic, just to get everyone back in the groove of that previous topic. 

By connecting yourself to your students and recalling a previous topic or two at the beginning of each class, you'll find that your classes work better and that student learning improves!

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