As someone who has been teaching for over 20 years, I know the rhythm of the school year. The third quarter is often a challenging time. It is dark outside and things in the classroom can seem repetitive and bland. This can happen in every class and must be confronted by every teacher. Teachers need to keep students engaged and should—particularly in the third quarter—think about how to freshen up their classes. Here are five ways to freshen up your Omnibus discussions during the third quarter:
Often, when Omnibus discussions are lagging, it is because the teacher is talking too much. Passivity leads to disengagement and apathy on the part of students. If you want to know if you have this problem, take some time after your discussions to think through what types of sentences you used. If you were mainly using sentences that ended in periods (declarative sentences) rather than sentences that ended in question marks (interrogative sentences), you might have this problem. The corrective is encouraging students to talk more, ask more questions, and then letting them talk to each other. Sometimes this might be messy especially if the students have not developed the skills of discussion. Letting the students talk can be an effective way to interject new life into your discussions.
Another way to energize your discussion is by asking questions and then disciplining yourself to avoid giving the answers too quickly. Often teachers can get very worried about the answer a student gives because the answer is wrong, false, or headed down a very wrong path. Imagine a teacher asking a class, “How is a parson saved?” A student might respond, “I think that God puts your good works on one side of the balance and your bad works on the other and if there are more good works than bad you get to go to heaven.” At this point, every Christian teacher wants to scream, “NO!” because this view is so wrong and they don’t want it to affect or harm other students. I would caution the quick squash technique, however. Have the courage to say, “Ok, what does everyone think about that answer?” Let the students wrestle with the answer. Don’t give them the answer too quickly. Note that I am not counselling letting confusion go on forever. I am counseling patience and a willingness to let the students wrestle with questions and answer when they can. This might even require the teacher to question some of the correct answers that students give so that class can see aspects of a question that they might otherwise miss.
The third quarter is a great time of year to check yourself and your energy level. If you as a teacher are down or uninterested, your students will likely end up lacking interest in the discussion. Make sure that you are doing your preparation, thinking through the issues, and figuring out good questions to pose to gain the interest of the class. If you lack energy, it will seep out to your students. (Also, when you are down, think through your sleep and try—I know this is hard—to squeeze in 30 minutes more. A more rested teacher is often a more energized and energizing teacher.)
This skill is particularly important for your younger grades in Omnibus. Often, students talk past each other or they might fail to recognize the logical connections between two statements. As a teacher, make sure that you are a good listener. Help them to see areas where they are disagreeing or areas one student’s answer is at issues with another student. These sorts of clarifying statements might start with a teacher saying something like: “When you said x, did you mean y?” You might even need to help them see the collision between to states by saying something like, “Billy just said y and Mary just said x. Does anyone see how those two statements might be in disagreement?” Helping students see areas for interesting discussion.
Sometimes you will hit an area where students interest erupts. Sometimes you see this coming; sometimes you don’t. When it happens, however, make sure that you take advantage of it. Lengthen your discussion at this point and take more time to stir up interest and foster debate.
Every year and every discussion can be a challenge. Using these techniques can help your discussions to be more engaging and interesting which will bless your students and help you as a teacher feel like you are giving your students all they need.
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