As Easy as 1,2,3
It is pedagogically useful to consider different levels of human interaction: individuals thinking for themselves, working alone and presenting; partnerships for dialog, joint activities or peer editing; small group interplay for discussion, decision-making, implementation and reportage; and full group tasks like consensus building, sharing diverse perspectives or reading a play.
In a way these parallel real life interactions and allow practice at communication in different social circumstances.
To support learning and growth on each of these levels, vary learner activities and classroom arrangements accordingly.
Examine a week’s plans to see if each of the levels is addressed in some way. Comment on what you find:
Teaching as Performing Art
When taking center stage, raise the presentation to the level of Art.
Make use of your special talents. Can you sing, illustrate, outline, summarize, mime tell stories, present historical perspective, tell relevant jokes, change characters, be logical, be psychological?
Gather needed props.
Rehearse while driving to school or in a more elaborate manner. If you like the result, consider making it a performance piece in your annual repertoire.
Perfect one 5-7 minute presentation. Do it for yourself, a friend, a group of people, and then your class. Comment on the process: (How did all that rehearsal affect the result?)
Originally, modalities were a reference to certain perceptions including specifically visual and auditory, touch and kinesthesis (meaning whole body muscle memory, like jump rope, or a golf swing, or riding a bike.) A few decades ago some educators began to observe that individuals tended to find that they learned more readily, grasped concepts more easily, when a topic was presented prominently in a certain modality of their preference.
If we ask the question squarely, ‘How does Harold or Johanna learn?’ we might begin to identify distinct ways. There are some students who use logic to think about an idea – for these there might well be a time requirement to repeatedly come at a problem, such as how best to play a hand of cards, or how to use a computer differently to get where you want to go or in life how to consider a complex set of variables at the same time, or simply trust in the moment.
Some of us learn by repetition until it becomes automatic. Rhyming sounds may have helped us learn the alphabet and a poem may still be committed more easily to memory than other genres of language. Some of us just know, that is, we feel something is right intuitively, instinctively. Some can learn while sleeping, awakening to find the answers that eluded them the night before. The matter is complex and still in discussion. But this much is clear:
As an educator respecting the diversity of students, we can learn to extend our usual ways of presenting to stretch our abilities in less familiar modalities particularly as ways to re-introduce a topic in a new light — perhaps with music and song, or mime, oratory, or images awash with color, so as to broaden our responsive audience.
Identify what modalities come easily to you in the classroom and one you’d like to add more often to your repertoire.
Some suggestions follow: