Performance in large lecture classes

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 22, 2008

[[AAPT Session:  Performance in large lecture courses, Brian Jones, Colorado State]]

If you’ve got a large lecture class (or, really, any size class) — like it or not, you’re a performer.  In this session, one lecturer gave several of his tips for injecting some theater into his classes in order to engage students and pique their interest.  By viewing your lecture as a bit of theater, you can take control of many aspects of the students experience.  Don’t allow the tone of your lecture to be accidental — you can explicitly frame it to accomplish what you want it to accomplish.

Theme music

Dr. Jones plays music at the beginning and end of class, which is related to the topic for that days’ course.  Students love it, and he asks them to “DJ” the class by submitting songs for him to play (they’re told the topics in advance).  He found this particularly good for starting class — he always chooses music that has a fade at the end.  This serves as a cue to the students (who are talking to neighbors, talking on their cell phone, checking their email) that class is starting, and they quiet down and pay attention.

Costume

He uses his clothes to act as a cue to students, to frame what that day is going to be like.  He can dress up, for example, for a more formal lecture day, or wear a tie dye shirt when it’s going to be a wacky day of demos.  This cues the students as to what they can expect that day.

Voice

As always, you can use your voice to paint the hues of the lecture, to emphasize, pause, or add drama.

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