How to Fill Extra Time When Teaching
Learn some fun ways to fill your time—whether you’re teaching or delivering a presentation.
Today, I’ll answer a question that was posted by Deanne Smith, on The Public Speaker Facebook Fan page. She wrote, “I'm sure this doesn't happen to more experienced presenters...but what do you do when your presentation/speech/lecture doesn't take up the time allotted? Very embarrassing, very awkward...”
What to Do When Your Speech Runs Short
Well, Deanne, as you know, I responded to your question very quickly. Mostly because, well, that’s not a question I commonly get asked. Generally people want to know the opposite…Is it OK to go OVER time? And I always say, you should NEVER go overtime.
When I responded to Deanne, I told her that if you have extra time at the end of a presentation, you can open it up to a discussion and ask the audience to share tips and ideas. I also added that finishing early is not a big deal because most audiences will appreciate that you respected their time. But it turns out that answer didn’t really help Deanna. She is a teacher and can’t simply let her classes go early.
How Teaching is Different than Presenting
Teaching is different from delivering a presentation. Especially in a classroom, you just never know ahead of time how engaged the students will be. You need to be prepared with additional materials and additional learning strategies so that you can reinforce the main concepts and ideas. One of The Public Speaker Facebook Fans, Akkana Peck, had the same advice. She wrote, "Usually I try to prepare too much material, with an ‘accordion section’ near the end. This can be stretched or compressed as needed or I add a bunch of ‘bonus slides’ past the final one."
How to Fill Time When Teaching
When I’m teaching I follow a similar tactic, but I don’t wait until the end. I create three or four timing break points during each classroom session. For each of the break points, I have accordion discussion questions available.
Though it depends on the subject or subjects that you are teaching, many topics do lend themselves to "discussion" questions. These are questions that relate to the topic at hand, but require the students to share an opinion or definition, or apply a concept learned or read about.
What does X mean to you? Do you think Y is important? Can you share an example of Z? Do you have any personal experience with this?
Depending on the group, some questions will create a big discussion, whereas others will lead to silence (unfortunately). That’s why I add in the several discussion questions throughout the lecture—ultimately my goal (again if it’s possible with the topic) is to have more of a conversation than a one-way communication.
How to Create Activities to Help You Teach
Next, I also try to create activities that reinforce the materials. I try to make them as fun as possible. For example, with my children, I am now teaching basic math concepts. As our practice activities we have been doing a lot of cooking from recipes. So we are counting and measuring as we follow the recipes.
It’s possible to do this same kind of thing at the university level or even in the corporate environment. I find the best way to reinforce concepts is to provide real-world examples and scenarios. Have the people you are teaching work in teams to discuss and solve problems using the concepts or tools taught. When they work in a team, each team member helps and guides the others by sharing how they might approach the problem.
Another good stand-by activity in a teaching environment is to have the students individually write a list of the new things they learned during class that day. Then have them share that list with their neighbor by explaining in their own words the things they learned. Or you can go around the room asking each person to contribute one thing they learned but not allowing anyone to repeat a previous answer. Another variation I sometimes use is a “red light, yellow light, green light” activity. What will you stop doing as a result of this class, what will you think twice about the next time, and what will you do more of as a result of attending this class? These suggestions also make a good course-ending activities as well. You might be surprised to see what the students say they’ve learned.
More Activity Ideas
[[AdMiddle]Finally, my last suggestion for an activity to use as you teach is to do something fun that does not DIRECTLY relate to the day's lesson, but relates to your topic in general. When I say fun, I mean a game of some sort--pitting two sides of the room against each other, for example. I’ve used teacher-presentation-style templates of the game shows "Jeopardy” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” successfully in both the corporate and university environments. In fact, many teachers have already created templates for a number of topics that you can find ready to go for classroom use. Games are fun to incorporate because the students are having fun, and the competition often sparks participation from those who generally just hang back.
There is so much to say about classroom teaching but this should be a good start to get you thinking about ways to reinforce concepts and learning to use up any “extra” time.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, passionate about communication your success is my business.
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