Do you repeat yourself when giving directions?
Most teachers do.
Besides wasting time and energy, repeating yourself weakens the power of your words.
It causes students to tune you out.
When your students become conditioned to you repeating yourself, they know they can take their time following your directions.
They can finish the paragraph they’re reading. They can carry on their conversation a bit longer.
They can cruise through the day without urgency because they know you’ll repeat your directions—and anything else important—over and over again.
How To Speak With Power
Repeating yourself is a habit you must break if you want your words to have impact.
The good news is that it isn’t difficult to do. Chances are, you’ll find it liberating.
Just follow these eight steps:
1. Stop moving.
Before addressing your class, stop moving and stand in one place. This helps students focus on you and your message. It also acts as a modeling device; they’ll mimic what they see from you.
2. Ask for attention.
Ask for your students’ attention using a normal speaking voice. I recommend something simple like, “Can I have your attention, please.” Then wait until every student is quiet and looking at you before opening your mouth.
3. Say it once.
Give your instructions once using clear, direct language. And don’t over explain. Giving too much information is a common mistake. Keep it simple. Tell your students only what you want them to do.
A longer-than-normal pause will keep students focused on you. If you speak again right away without a generous pause, you’ll lose them. Looking away as the teacher begins speaking is another behavior teachers condition students to do. A well-timed pause eliminates this danger.
5. Ask a negative.
Ask your students if any of them does not know what to do. This is an effective questioning technique that helps shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students. If a student does raise his or her hand, tell the student to ask a neighbor after you give your signal to begin.
6. Give your “Go” signal.
Go is a power word that initiates action. As soon as you say it, your students will get busy doing something. If you follow the guidelines given here, however, they’ll do what you ask of them.
7. Don’t help.
You’ve done your part. Now it’s their turn. The responsibility to carry out your instructions lies with them, not you. If you notice a student lost or unsure of what to do, resist jumping in to help.
Give the student a chance to figure out what to do on his/her own or to ask a classmate. If you’re the type of teacher who is quick help, then you’ll create dependent students (i.e., learned helplessness).
8. Do not repeat.
If a student asks you what they’re supposed to do, answer by telling the student to follow your directions. This encourages students to 1) listen intently to directions and 2) take responsibility by finding out from a classmate. This is key to creating a classroom of sharp, independent students.
By following the guidelines above and never repeating yourself, you’ll cut the amount of talking you do in half. You’ll have better energy at the end of the day. You’ll get a lot more done.
But best of all, your words will have power—power that causes students to tune in to the sound of your voice and to carry out your directions with speed and accuracy.
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