Create Magic in the Classroom

For the last 10 days my social media feeds have been full of articles on Oprah’s rousing acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. Even beyond the powerful message behind her speech, I’ve seen numerous analyses on her delivery as well. It isn’t just her vision for “the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again” that had the crowd on its feet — it’s the mesmerizing way she speaks that holds her audience captive and haunts their ears and minds long after the proverbial mic drop.

I’d been mulling this phenomenon for a solid week when I found myself scrolling through hundreds of images, quotes and memes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s own compelling orations. As I swiped through post after post, I heard his words reverberating through my mind much like Oprah’s had been in the days prior. And that’s when it hit me: this is the “magic” Dr. Christopher Emdin is referring to in his TED Talk “Teach teachers to create magic.”

“Right now there is also a person who has an entire audience rapt with attention, a person that is weaving a powerful narrative about a world that the people who are listening have never imagined or seen before, but if they close their eyes tightly enough, they can envision that world because the storytelling is so compelling.”
— Dr. Christopher Emdin

Listen to the speeches above or to Emdin’s TED Talk; read the analysis on what makes them so powerful, and you’ll find a common thread: timing. Of course there are other commonalities, too: vivid storytelling, repetition, etc. But it’s the timing and the placement of those elements that creates the holistic magic of the delivery.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could mesmerize our students with that kind of magic during every class?

Although as teachers we’re obviously comfortable in a public speaking capacity, not all of us are made to channel the level of soulfulness achieved by Oprah, MLK, or even Christopher Emdin. I mean, I suppose you could hand back assignments Oprah-style with “ YOU get an A! And YOU get an A! EVERYBODY gets an A!” But that enthusiasm might start to wane as the letter grades drop, and the element of hype doesn’t exactly get at the essence of what we’re talking about here.

Timing is everything

Back to the timing thing I mentioned earlier: that strategy is replicable by any teacher in any classroom. Look at the progression of our exemplars:

  1. Begin with a memory or image — something vivid — to capture the audience’s (read: class’s) attention.
  2. Move the message forward with more examples to reinforce your theme.
  3. Add in a little repetition to ensure they will remember key words and phrases.
  4. Pause. Wait for everyone to catch up. Give them a chance to respond to what you’ve said so far.
  5. Dive back in and crescendo to the end.
  6. For the finale, leave them with something to reflect on or dream about.

Just listing those 6 steps could have left you with enough lesson planning inspo to chew on for a few days, but I prefer to be more practical when doling out thinly veiled advice.

With the new pre-made template library in Pear Deck’s add-on for Google Slides, you’ll find inspiration for making the beginning, middle and end of your lesson powerful and — dare I say? — mesmerizing.

Try this progression on for size:

1. Begin with a memory or image — something vivid — to capture the audience’s (read: class’s) attention with a drawing slide warm-up.

Magic 1.png

2. Move the message forward with more examples to reinforce your theme.

3. Add in a little repetition to ensure they will remember key words and phrases.

4. Pause. Wait for everyone to catch up. Give them a chance to respond to what you’ve said so far with a Draggable™ slide.

Magic 2.png

5. Dive back in and crescendo to the end.

6. For the finale, leave them with something to reflect on or dream about.

Magic 3.png

 

Not only will you have drawn them in with your brilliant content and intuitive pacing, but you’ll also have captured their attention AND their answers with Pear Deck’s interactive slides. I don’t want to promise you’ll get a standing ovation, but then again, I’ve heard it’s happened with Pear Deck before. 👏