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Lesson 2: Components of the Lecture and Strategies for Making Each Component More Interactive

"Tell your students what you're going to tell them. Tell them. Then, tell them what you told them."

  1. The Introduction to the lecture ("Tell students what you're going to tell them.")
    1. Prepare your students to learn by previewing the day's session.
      • Provide an agenda. This will help you "keep on track" and will allow students to speak up if they find they aren't "getting it."
      • Show them the "big picture," which involves tying the topic into what happened in the last class session, and what will happen in future sessions.
      • In advance, ask a student to summarize what happened in the last class period and ask another student to do the same for the next session.
    2. Use an attention getter to arouse interest in the topic. Examples:
      • To find out what students' assumptions are about a subject, have them jot down the answers to a "what" or "how" question about the topic. Have them work on this either individually or in pairs.
      • Pose a problem and elicit solutions from the students.
      • Ask the students how the topic/reading/assignment relates to their lives.
      • In small groups, ask students to decide on three things they know to be true about the subject.
      • Use a cartoon, interesting or famous quotation, or video clip applicable to the content.
      • Relate the topic to future work/professional experiences.
      • Ask students to bring a quote to class from the reading that they found meaningful, confusing, interesting, etc. Ask volunteers to share why they selected it.
      • Ask students to bring a one or two page essay to class on the reading or on a question which stems from the material for the day.
    3. Make the purpose and outcomes of the lecture clear.
      • Give students the terminology they will need to understand new concepts.
      • Give useful directions at the beginning of the class, such as whether or not they need to take notes, when the best time to ask questions is, etc.
  2. The Body of the lecture ("Tell them.")
    1. "Uncover" the content in an organized manner while you explicitly (and transparently) communicate your method of organization to them.
      • Provide a skeletal outline, lesson plan, map, or tree diagram of the lecture. Refer to this during the lecture.
      • "Chunk" the information by subdividing your topic into two or three mini-lectures, which last only ten or fifteen minutes and around which only one major point is made. It is reasonable to cover only two to three major points per fifty-minute class.
      • Follow each ten to fifteen minute lecture with a student-active break, such as a "quick-think," or "change-up" for two to fifteen minutes. Ideally, change-ups should be timed to give students the opportunity to integrate or apply the most important concepts covered in class. Examples of "change-ups" or "quick-thinks" include the following:
        • Write a Question
          Ask the students to take two to three minutes to write a question they have about the material just covered. Ask for volunteers to ask and answer questions.
        • One-Minute Papers
          Ask students to write down what they consider to be the most important point covered so far.
        • Think-(and/or Write)-Pair-Share
          After ten to fifteen minutes of lecturing, pose a challenging question and have students either think or write their response for a few minutes. Then ask the students to share their response with their neighbor. Ask volunteers to share their responses with the class.
        • Finding Illustrative Quotations
          Alone or in small groups have students find a quote in the reading which supports a specific position. Different groups can look for support for different positions.
        • Truth Statements
          Ask small groups to decide on three things they know to be true about some particular issue. This is a good way to examine their assumptions.
        • Pair and Compare
          Ask students to pair up and compare notes, expanding upon them as needed.
        • Pair, Compare and Ask
          Students do the above (Pair and Compare) but conclude by writing a question. Before continuing the lecture, you may want to respond to a few of the questions, or have students do so.
        • Periodic Recall
          Students stop taking notes; close their books and write down two or three of the main points from the lecture thus far. Students could then compare and discuss what they have written with a partner.
        • Solve a Problem
          Pose a problem or even a multiple choice question and have students try to answer it individually. They could then compare their answers with a neighbor.
        • Re-order the Steps
          Present a series of steps in a mixed order and have students re-order the steps correctly. They can do this in writing, or assign each student a step and have them physically arrange themselves in the correct order.
        • Graphic Representation
          Ask students to represent a key topic in a non-narrative format (i.e., picture, graph, etc.).
        • Value Lines or Stand Where You Stand
          Students line up according to how strongly they agree or disagree with a proposition or how strongly they value something. This gives a visual reading of the continuum of feelings in the group. You could then sort students into heterogeneous groups based on where they are standing so that you have students who agree and disagree in the same group. Ask students to listen to differing viewpoints in their groups and fairly paraphrase opposing positions. (Wright, 1994, p. 5)
      • Organize your points either
        • chronologically.
        • in ascending or descending order.
        • by presenting a problem and following with possible solutions.
        • by asking a question followed by short or full explanations.
        • by moving from the simple to complex.
        • by moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
      • Between each major chunk or mini-lecture, summarize what you have just covered and provide a preview of what is to come. This provides continuity and helps students see the big picture.
    2. Select meaningful examples/stories to help with understanding and remembering information. Ideally, they should relate to the students' experiences.
    3. Identify appropriate teaching materials or props (i.e., visual aides) to support your explanations.
      • Use a variety of media, such as PowerPoint slides, pictures, cartoons, videos, video clips, music, and maps.
      • When using visual aides, ask students to tell you what they see before you tell them what they are seeing.
      • When using a video, film or musical piece,
        • introduce it by providing an overview of the content, a rationale of how it relates to the current topic being studied, and a reason students need to know and care.
        • direct students' attention to specific aspects of the presentation by asking them questions, which they will be required to answer following the presentation.
        • it is unnecessary to show all of a video or film, or play an entire song. Using the most relevant parts of the media may be the best use of class time and have the greatest impact.
        • it may be useful to stop the presentation at appropriate points for discussion or clarification.
        • follow-up a video or film with an activity that allows students to respond to or extend ideas presented. Discussions, short writing assignments, or application exercises, for example, will reinforce the concepts and increase learning from classroom audiovisuals. (Middendorf, 1993, p. 3)
      • Bring "real" items that students can touch, feel, smell, taste, and handle.
    4. Invite participation.
      • Stand close to students versus behind a podium.
      • Consider the size of the classroom and desk configuration when delivering a lecture. A U-shape desk configuration invites participation.
      • Explain why you expect their participation.
      • Look at students when they are talking. Don't turn your back on a student who is talking.
      • Use eye contact as much as possible.
    5. Punctuate your lecture with questions.
      • It is important to keep in mind class size when using questioning techniques. Classes with one to twenty students allow both the instructor and students to ask many questions, resulting in greater participation. (Sullivan and Wircenski, 1996)
      • Use students' names when asking and answering questions.
      • When students ask or answer a question, repeat or paraphrase before continuing so that all students can hear the question or answer.
      • Start by asking easier questions, building to more challenging ones.
      • When a student asks a question, instead of answering, ask another student to answer.
      • Students are more likely to answer a question when there is more than one right answer.
      • After making a major point, pose a multiple choice question based on the content just covered. Have students vote on the right answer and then have them turn to their neighbor and try to persuade them that their answer is right. When time is up, take another vote.
      • If readings have been assigned, refer to them and ask questions related to the reading.
      • Stop the class after ten or fifteen minutes of lecturing and ask each student to write down one or two questions they have about the material just covered. Ask volunteers to share their questions and have students answer them.
    6. Vary the format
      • Do something different every ten to fifteen minutes. (See section 2,A. above on "change-ups" for ideas.)
      • Use role-playing, case studies, debates, and presentations.
      • Let students (or groups) go to the board to write the result of small group work or to write the results of a class problem, such as math.
      • When students' attention starts to wane, consider handing out crackers or chocolate. The food helps to wake them up and the activity refocuses their attention.
  3. Conclusion ("Tell them what you told them.")
    1. This is an opportunity to tie everything together and help students see the relevancy of the topic and its relationship to the big picture.
    2. Summarize major points, or better yet, ask students to do so.
    3. Provide instructions on what the students are responsible for preparing for the next class session. Allow time for questions.
    4. At the end of class, have the students take a short quiz individually or in small groups. They should be able to answer the question(s) (without much difficulty) based on the lecture and their class participation.
    5. Assign a One-Minute paper by asking students one or more of the following questions:
      • "What do you consider to be the main point(s) of today's class?" or "What one or two things stood out for you from today's class?"
      • "What was the muddiest point?" or "What question(s) still remains uppermost in your mind?" Collect these papers and start the next class session by noting any trends in the students' responses and/or by addressing their muddiest points and questions.
    6. During the last three minutes of class, have students write everything they can recall from the lecture. (According to one study, this strategy, along with change-ups, resulted in much better comprehension and retention of lecture material. In some cases, students went up two letter grades.)
    7. If possible, stay after class at least five minutes to answer questions students might be reluctant to ask in front of their classmates, or arrive to class early to allow for questions.

Quick Tips on Delivering a Lecture
"A lecturer often makes you feel dumb at one end and numb at the other." - Evan Esar

  1. Call on students by their names.
  2. Speak neither too slow nor too fast.
  3. Vary the volume and tone of your voice to fit the explanation.
  4. Look at students for cues, but use assessment (student feedback tools) to find out if they are in fact "getting it."
  5. Be well prepared and organized but allow for spontaneity.
  6. Move around the room. Do not sit on or behind a desk.
  7. Prepare lecture notes to:
    • stay on topic
    • cover the main points without forgetting something
    • enable you to relax and focus on delivery instead of worrying about what point to make next (Sullivan and Wircenski, 1996)
  8. Do not read from notes or a book for any length of time. You will most likely lose expressiveness, eye contact, and psychological contact.
  9. Use humor if your comfortable with it, but not at the students expense. Avoid sarcasm.
  10. Pause. Remember to breath.
  11. Avoid distracting mannerisms, such as the use of fillers (e.g., "um" and "er") or jiggling your keys or coins in your pockets, excessive pacing, etc.
  12. Repeat, rephrase, and slow down when you are presenting new ideas or using new terminology.
  13. Be aware of which side of the room you look at more. Make a conscious effort to make eye contact with everyone.
  14. Evaluate the quality of your lectures by
    • asking students for feedback through a Small Group Instructional Feedback (SGIF) or via questionnaires,
    • having a class videotaped and either viewing it alone, or better yet, with a trusted colleague, and/or
    • having an experienced colleague or faculty developer observe a class and take notes using a checklist that indicates what you want the observer to look for.


Davis, B. G. Tools for Teaching. (1st ed.) San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Johnson, D. W. Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Edina MN: Interaction Book Company, 1991.

Johnson, G. R. First Steps To Excellence In College Teaching. (3rd ed.) Madison, WI: Magna Publications, Inc. 1995

Magnan, B. 147 Practical Tips for Teaching Professors. Madison, WI: Magna Publications, Inc. 1992.

Nilson, L. Teaching At Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors. (1st ed) Bolton MA: Anker publishing Company Inc. 1998.

Pregent, R. Charting Your Course: How To Prepare to Teach More Effectively. Madison, WI: Magna Publications, Inc. 1994.

Silberman, Mel, Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject, p. 72, Allyn and Bacon, 1996.

Sullivan, R and Wircenski, J. Technical Presentation Workbook. ASME Press: New York 1996.

Weimer, M. Improving Your Classroom Teaching. (1st ed.) Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 1993.

Weimer, M and Neff, R. A. Teaching College: Collected Readings for the New Instructor. (4th ed.) Madison, WI: Magna Publication, Inc. 1990.

Most of the above reference materials are available on a lending basis in the Center For Teaching Excellence (TLC 324).

Internet References

University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence, "Teaching Roles: Lecturing"

The Reading Room, "Delivering Effective Lectures"

Indiana University, Middendorf, J., Kalish, "The Change-Up in Lectures" A. TRC Newsletter, 8:1 (Fall 1996).

Middendorf, J. (1993). Active viewing for video, films, and other audio visuals. Teaching Resources Center Newsletter, 4 (1), 3.

Wright, D. L. (1994). Using learning groups in your classroom: A few how-to's. Teaching at UNL (University of Nebraska - Lincoln), 15 (4) 1-2, 4-5.

Lessons: Index, 1, 2, 3, References

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