Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Return of the Lecture?!?

Seeing the lightbulb go on over students' heads, seeing the spark of recognition and clarity in a student's eye are some of the main reasons why I love teaching.  I am returning to the lecture to more regularly see that light bulb, that spark, that clarity.
Lectures done wrong can be worse than bad.  They can drain the energy out of a room and dull an exciting topic into nothing.  That's not where I'm going.
Also, don't get me wrong, if you were to drop into my classroom on a given day, the chances of seeing an old school standard lecture would be zero.
Over the last couple of years, I have given maybe a handful of lectures but I have heard a rising chorus of student voices asking for more lectures.  Why?  Many students weren't fully "getting" some of the concepts as we weren't gaining closure on those concepts.  Many of the more advanced and more motivated students were getting the concepts, but often many others were gaining just a glimmer of understanding, but the concepts weren't coming fully clear and some students were just missing the ideas completely.  We need to get more students to understand the content better.  It's a pretty clear goal, right?
I have been trying to get the students to discover the information on their own, but many either didn't know how to truly discover the ideas or if they found the concepts, they didn't fully understand what to do with them.  We definitely are going to work on helping the students get better at researching and discovering their concepts on their own and help them apply their new knowledge.
At the same time though, the lecture is going to make a return, but you still won't see a standard lecture in my classroom.  I had been seeing this lack of closure and had moved to more verbal question and answer time especially in my AP classes and my psych classes, but still with a Socratic approach some students were not quite getting it.  Hmmm...  I was getting closer, but not fully there.
I decided to rethink the lecture.  This is when I ran into "10, 20, 30" as a guide.  The idea comes from Guy Kawasaki who says presenters should only use 10 slides, speak for only 20 minutes, and use only 30 point font.  What a simple and clear set of guidelines!  (Of course, I am teaching these ideas to my students to help them become better presenters!)
For my purposes, I try to keep it to 10, 10, 30.  I make sure to use no more than 10 slides and try to keep the total time to 10 minutes (I rarely get there!).  Usually, with the interaction that I encourage, we go longer than 10 minutes, but the goal is to keep it as short as possible.
The most important of the three numbers is 30 with as little text as possible and I always push to have some sort of visual on each slide as many students will remember the photo, painting, graph, or cartoon better than the text that explains it.
Another great benefit of my new, short lectures is the limited amount of prep time for my spare presentations.  With the push for interaction with my students and the limited amount of information being put on my slides, the presos have come together much faster than my long and highly detailed old school Powerpoints I used to use and labor over in the past.  I have been pleasantly surprised.
I am looking forward to moving back toward lectures as I feel this will help some students gain a better understanding while still allowing plenty of room for the students to discover the concepts for themselves.  I feel these types of lectures fit very well with the idea of teacher as guide which I have always felt was my role in the classrooms.
What have you found in your classroom?  Do you "lecture?"  If so, how does it compare to what I have laid out here?  Please let me know what you think.

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