Linguistics was my least favorite class in college. Not because I didn’t like diagramming sentences or talking about parts of speech, but because the class was run as a lecture by the most monotone professor ever known. All she did was talk at us for a full hour. Periodically she would ask for our input in diagramming sentences, but usually she did all of that for us. It was so boring, sitting there, listening to her. We were expected to take notes, but I would generally nod off during class because I was so bored. She spent entire class periods talking about the same thing. Perhaps if she mixed up her focus and talked about something else during class other than one topic, I would have been more engaged.
As a teacher, I try to vary my instruction so that my students will never say, “That was so boring.” I utilize group work, partner activities, independent work, projects, whole class activities, and small group discussions in the classroom to mix things up a bit. Plus, varying my methods helps keep me awake and excited in class. I still don’t know how my linguistics professor didn’t fall asleep while she taught.
Prior to STEM class today, the sixth graders participated in an invention exposition, during which they showcased the inventions they created. They needed to stay put and focused for over three hours this morning. As I planned for today’s STEM class, I knew that I needed to keep it interesting or else the students would get distracted or unfocused quickly. So, I decided to chunk the period. First, the students finished working on the Brook Trout Ecosystem phase of our project. While I graded some of the students regarding their work, others worked on their Extend Your Learning project. 15 minutes later, when everyone had been graded and assessed regarding this phase of the project, we transitioned. The boys then spent 15 minutes working on the Building a Geometrically Correct River Project. They worked in their small groups to create their unique river diagram and river proposal. Then, the final 15 minutes of class was devoted to Math Club, which consisted of weekly timed math facts tests. The boys were on-task and engaged throughout the period. Was it because the class wasn’t focused on just one task for the entire time? Or was it because they enjoyed what we were doing in class? The research shows that students can only effectively handle information and lessons in small chunks. So, perhaps it was the small chunks that helped keep them focused. Just when they were getting into an activity, we transitioned. This way, they were still excited about the work, and so they will want to jump right back into it next week. Engagement is so crucial in helping students remember and store information learned. The boys will remember things that were fun and exciting. They won’t remember those activities that were banal and uninteresting.
Chunking my class today served two purposes. One, it allowed me to keep my students engaged after a difficult task. And two, it helped me keep the unit progressing. Boredom is the death of learning. So, I found a useful way to combat it while helping my students grow and develop.