“There is no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to.”
Michel de Montaigne (French philosopher and writer, 1533 – 1592)
Interesting quote, of course ! It relates to a blog post from a teacher in England who has posted previously on what he believes to be the holy trinity of teaching: questioning, feedback and explanations. This post is about explanations and he posts his top ten tips for explaining:
1. ‘Know what the students know’ when planning your explanation, referencing Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development.
2. Use patterns of challenging subject specific language repeatedly, choose key words that stick.
3. Make explanations simple, but not simpler. Convey a key message, use compressed language.
4. Engage their hearts and minds, use humour and jokes but wary of ‘style over substance’, link to personal interests.
5. ‘Paint the picture’ – use analogies, metaphors and images.
6. Tell compelling stories, even dry statistics become enlivened when in the context of a story. Build narratives, with characters, conflicts and resolutions.
7. Make abstract concepts concrete and real, avoid abstract language and jargon.
8. Hone your tone, charisma without content is vacuous, but content without clarity and confidence is less likely to stick in the memory. Stress key words explicitly, use a tone that conveys enthusiasm and authority for maximum engagement.
9. Check understanding with targeted questions. Have a ‘no hands up’ policy – use the ABC FEEDBACK model: Agree with, Build upon, Challenge.
10…………and repeat. Knowledge stored in the long term memory is most typically revisited.
Core message = clear and effective explanations matter !