Evoke Emotions To Help Students Learn
As the students were working on their bell ringer today (recalling radioactive decay equations), I stood in the middle of class and read the following to them:
Then, I showed them haunting imprints of people killed by the blast...
This was my prelude to starting the discussion on nuclear fission and fusion in chemistry today. And, while the images students undoubtedly saw in their minds upon hearing the above story were gruesome, my purpose was clear. I wanted to evoke strong emotions.
I am reading "Brain Rules" by John Medina, which I enjoy and highly recommend, as the guy is an incredible writer, in addition to being a college professor and a brain guru. I recently finished a chapter titled "Attention" in which Dr. Medina explains how to grab and hold students' focus throughout the lesson.
One of the strategies he uses in his college lectures is employing "hooks." A hook is an emotionally competent stimulus (ECS) or an event that triggers strong emotions. All learning has emotions associated with it, but the stronger they are the better encoded the information becomes. During an emotionally charged event, out brain releases dopamine, which helps information processing and improves memory formation.
Thus, the "Hiroshima" story I read was a hook. But it wasn't just emotionally charged. It was also relevant, which is another key ingredient to a successful hook. If the hook information is unrelated to the topic you're getting ready to discuss, it will not be effective.
Then I got to talking about the pros and cons of nuclear reactions (Hiroshima was hit with a fission bomb named "Little Boy") and gave examples of fission and fusion reactions. That took about 10 minutes followed by students completing and identifying nuclear equations in small groups.
I felt that all students understood the material. I'll have to come back to it and have them practice more, but I feel they are well on their way to mastery of nuclear equations.
Remember the magic number 10. It is the number of minutes you can hold an audience's attention before it spikes way down. So...
1. Grab your audience with a hook to evoke emotions.
2. Teach 1 big concept for 9 minutes. Explain the big idea. elaborate. Give examples.
3a. Have students apply the concept and teach each other.
3b. Have a new hook ready if you want to keep going for another 10 minutes. The hook gives your audience a much needed brain break and can be used to introduce the next big idea.
4. Repeat, and keep it to 3 (maybe 4) big concepts tops. Less is more.
Hey. Thanks for reading! What do you think about using emotions in the classroom? Leave a comment or Sign Up for my Newsletter and we'll learn together.
You Have The Power To Change The World. Use It Often.