Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is My Lesson Sticky?

In Teaching that Sticks from Tim Holt’s Blog Things from my mind... , Tim talks about reading the book Made to Stick, which I’ve got to read now. He contacted the authors who sent him a pdf file (the link is on Tim’s blog) that shares six reasons ideas stick. He says, “It is pretty interesting reading, and essentially, the authors say that there are six reasons ideas stick...


First of all I love acronyms and this is really a great one (goes great with the name of my blog, don’t you think?!)

I think this would really help many new and struggling teachers everywhere as well as rejuvenate some of us old and experienced teachers. When I first started teaching, I believe we were taught these concepts but tend to forget about them as we get more experience. We probably do a lot of these things without ever consciously thinking about them so I decided to consciously think about how I do these things in my classroom.

Simple: I try to keep my explanations simple without being insulting or offensive to the intelligence of the audience. The more complicated I make it; the harder it is for the student to make sense out of it. Many times, my husband calls it “the bottom line.” I tend to give it too much explanation and lose people so he tells me to figure out what the bottom line is and keep it short and sweet. Then I can explain it more if I need to but most people want to know the bottom line before they invest energy and time into learning more.

Unexpected: I always called it “The catch!” I liked to find the way to introduce a concept by hooking them in and making them want to know more. If they start off automatically thinking it is boring, they won’t care about the rest. It might involve the way I dress or a video clip or some kind of cliff hanger but something out of the ordinary lecture or handout or same-old-same-old stuff.

Concrete: This was the most important in my special education class because many of my students had a lot of trouble with abstract ideas or concepts. This makes the lesson relevant to the students. They need to know how it is used in real life. Many of my students have gone through so many years of busy work that they needed to see that this was not just one more of those in the long line of “just keep them busy and they will stay out of trouble.” If they see there is a reason to learn this, they are more engaged and motivated.

Credible: If I can make the lesson hands on, it will definitely be more meaningful. Or if I can show this skill actually being used in real life situation, the students can see the relevance. I like to invite speakers in who may use this skill in their profession so the students can see that it can be used after they get out of school. Many times the speakers really enjoy sharing information like this with students and because the speakers are so energized, it really inspires the students.

Emotional: I love to get my students to talk about their opinions. If they can tell how they feel about the concept, whether they would use it or not, whether they agree with it or not or even get a debate going about it, they will remember the lesson. By getting emotionally involved, they suddenly have a connection to the lesson. They can’t remove themselves from it and pretend it never existed. I remember in fourth grade doing a major report on pollution which was kind of boring to me. Then after reading more about it, I took it personally and begged my parents to drive me around the town so I could take pictures of businesses that were polluting my environment. I began writing letters to them asking them to stop polluting my earth! I never forgot this lesson even today (and believe me, that was many, many years ago!)

Story: My students love to hear stories but mostly stories that involved me and I definitely have a load of them. I like to tell stories about how this lesson impacted my life and the students like to know more about me on a personal level. This makes me more human to them instead of being on a pedestal not remembering what it was like to be a student. The more “real” I can be to them, the more impact I will have on their lives.

Tim states, “So, next time you are making a lesson, consider the stickiness of your lesson. Is it Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and contain Story elements? If so, you have a killer lesson. If not, you may want to add something to it.” He is so right! I think we need to make sure we don’t take all of these steps for granted and consciously make an effort to do these things when teaching in order for it to be successful. What do you do to accomplish these things?

Original image: 'Success' by: Vincent Maurin


Carolyn Foote said...

That book is so good and very inspiring! I highly recommend it :)

loonyhiker said...

Carolyn: Thanks! I can't wait to read it.