Here’s something for you to think about the next time you deliver a lesson to students: How can I use dynamics to bring my students with me in what I’m teaching? We talk about engaging our students, immersing them in learning experiences but what really makes those lessons land?
As teachers, we’re very good at chunking our lessons into distinct parts: An attention-grabbing starter, some explicit teaching, modelling, guided practice, independent practice, plenaries. Doing this scaffolds students through the learning and also keeps them engaged for the duration of lessons. Now could we elevate our delivery further to really engage our students?
If we think about any amazing piece of classical music, it’s the use of dynamics that creates a mood and adds a real emotional quality to it. A great narrative story works the same way; the story slowly builds and gathers momentum through a series of events, leading to the climax and rounding off with a satisfying ending. In neither of these are the dynamics staying constant. Something that is one-note gets boring reeeeal fast.
I hadn’t thought about dynamics at all in my teaching until I got feedback from a literacy lesson observation during my time in London. In that lesson, I’d been team teaching and both myself and the other teacher were involved in introducing the learning activity. I got told that I balanced out the other teacher’s energy with a calming presence and sense of control. Funny - up until that point, I’d always thought of myself as the high-energy excitable teacher type but here I was bringing a different kind of dynamic - and it was working.
Reflecting on that and noticing my behaviour in following lessons, I started to understand why I had adapted my teaching style. When both of us went into highly-excitable-talking-fast-gesticulating-wildly-jumping-up-doing-dances-actions-and-interactive-things, it all became a blur. It all became a bit one-note. And the kids found it overwhelming.
It doesn’t matter if it's high or low energy, delivery without variation doesn’t keep students engaged. When we craft what we say and how we say it, we unlock the power to really hold our students’ attention and absorb them in their learning.
Will you bring your students with you next lesson?
Be purposeful teachers
Who are in control
And know they've done enough.