Thursday, 24 May 2012

Participation Precedes Learning

This was the title of the third presentation at the recent Cambridge Day I attended.  The speaker was Tim Murphey and what follows is a summary of his workshop.

Just as in his morning session, Tim began by telling us the first half of a 'split story'.  I was really taken with this technique as a way to engage students and intend to write a separate blog post about it.

Tim also advocates the use of speed dictation with the aim of teaching a set phrase which is the answer to a question prompt.  This can then be used at regular intervals throughout the class.  For example, when the teacher has his back to the class whilst writing something on the board, he can ask the question thereby giving the students something to do and say in what would otherwise be an unproductive few minutes.  In this session, Tim gave us the phrase, 'super, happy, optimistic, joyful and prodigious'.  He said it at normal speed a couple of times and we had to write down what we heard.  We then had to work collaboratively with our group to ensure that we had all written the phrase correctly (see my previous post about the benefits of collaboration).  The phrase was the answer to the question, 'How are you?', which Tim asked roughly every five or ten minutes throughout his presentation.  We all had to remember to say, 'I'm super, happy, optimistic, joyful and prodigious'.  He made it easier for us by putting a tune ('Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' from Mary Poppins) and a rhythm to the words.

So these two techniques, the split story and the learned phrase, are both perfect examples of ways to get students engaged, to get them participating fully in the classroom.  Research in the US has shown that students retain:
  • 10% of what they read
  • 26% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they see and hear
  • 70% of what they say
  • 90% of what they say and do
Therefore, who learns the most in the classroom?  Probably the teacher!!

Students need to do things for themselves: just hearing about something or seeing something won't make it stick.  Students have to:

WANT TO          ____    KNOW HOW TO      ___   HAVE THE CHANCE TO
(motivation)                                                               (opportunity)

Tell me and I'll forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I'll understand
Have me teach another and I'll know

Old Chinese proverb adapted by Tim Murphey

Total Physical Response (TPR)

As a way to engage students and to help them to retain what they are learning, we should encourage TPR within our classrooms.  This can be done in a number of ways:
  • Use music and rhythm - get students clapping or tapping their feet as they speak.
  • Use shadowing - get students to shadow (repeat back or summarise) what they hear when speaking to someone or when listening to a recording or watching a video clip. Shadowing can be complete, partial or interactive.
  • Use proto conversations - for example, get students to say mundane words (numbers, months of the year, etc.) in sequence, but change the style in which they say them - go from happy to sad to angry, etc.
  • Use intonational contours - song like language.
  • Walk and talk - get students moving around as they are speaking.
  • Use reformulation - have a maximum of ten minutes teacher talk time and then get students to reformulate what they have heard by peer teaching, completing questionnaires, correcting and comparing answers, mimicking their teacher, etc.
  • Play with the language - for example, watch this video of talking babies and get students to write a dialogue for the children.

Tim's message was certainly a powerful one expressed in a memorable and convincing way.  My colleagues and I have certainly implemented some of his techniques in the classroom, something I will write about in another blog post.


Tim Murphey's site where you will find recordings of his affirmation songs for speed dictations.


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    I look forward to hearing from you.