All teachers use the time-honored technique of lecturing occasionally. There are right and wrong ways to lecture. Don’t assume that all students benefit.
Teaching by lecturing is often referred to as expository teaching. There is more to a proper lecture, however, than, talking. A good lecture is planned before presentation and involves specific attention to key points of a topic. Lecturing may involve mostly speaking, but when used in the classroom to teach, visual aids are appropriate for focusing student attention. Middle and high school students need well-developed listening and note-taking skills to get maximum benefit from lectures.
Essential Considerations for Lecturing and Presenting Notes
The assumption that expository teaching works equally well with all students is a mistake. Especially when students have varying learning abilities, teachers must be careful to maintain control and focus. Students can be placed at risk by teachers who hold middle and high school students responsible for taking good notes and using the notes for studying.
- A class may remain quiet and appear to be focused while taking notes and be disengaged from the learning process.
- Boredom is an enemy to learning, and many students will busily copy notes simply because notes provide a way to occupy time — much like “doodling.”
- When reading abilities of students are below par, many of the words copied from a screen or board may be written down but cannot be read for studying. Unfamiliar spoken words may be omitted from notes.
- Teachers should pause periodically to allow time for students to write. Students may fall behind the spoken message while copying notes.
- Use prepared illustrations and other graphics to enhance notes. Give a copy of difficult graphics to students to keep in their notes. Don’t expect students to have artistic abilities.
- Copying notes during a lecture does not necessarily mean that students will or can use them to study. If assessments indicate that lectures and that notes are not helpful talk with students about the problem and try to use their feedback to improve expository teaching.
- Insert brief demonstrations into lectures when practical.
- Encourage questions by asking students if they understand.
- Think of the lecture as a performance. Be animated and interesting. Use personal examples to make points. Be a storyteller.
- Keep the presentation appropriate for grade level and age regarding length and complexity.
- Review. Stress the main points that students need to master.
Students Should Know how to Take Notes
The assumption that any student who can write can take good notes is wrong. There are specific skills required for good note-taking. Teachers should teach and practice — or at least review skills — with students.
- Listen to what is said by the teacher. Be confident about listening skills.
- Writing word for word is not necessary. Key words and concepts can be studied later.
- Abbreviate liberally. Develop unique shorthand symbols.
- Don’t copy what is already known well.
- Ask questions for clarification.
- Students should organize notes in a way that they understand.
- Use highlighters to emphasize key points.
- Have a designated notebook for notes. Avoid pulling out loose-leaf paper and stuffing it into a book bag.
- Review notes soon after taking them. Compare them with classmates.
There are many more tips that are worthwhile. Teachers can locate many on the Internet and share the tips most appropriate for the class and grade. In sharing the tips it is helpful to give students practice by offering exercises designed specifically to allow students to check their note-taking skills.
Expository teaching is a common way to teach. It involves lecturing and the instructional methods used to embellish the presentation. Lecturing is necessary is all classrooms, but without being aware of its limitations and how to improve the process students may miss the key points. Teachers should strive to use techniques that improve attention and be sure that students know how to take notes.