A good teacher must not
only be a smart and approachable scholar, but also a dramatic success. Like
actors, teachers can develop specific skills to enhance their communication
of ideas. A large part of this involves developing skills which help you perform
with enthusiasm. Your improved performance as a teacher will enhance student
achievement and your own enjoyment of teaching. While you need to find a teaching
style that suits your personality, as a teacher you do need to perform. This
means becoming a salesperson, a performance artist, and an enthusiastic, passionate
person in the classroom. The following skills are all part of a successful teachers
dramatic repertoire. Consider which you might need to develop:
SUBJECT MATTER MASTERY
Of course you must know
the material well before you can deliver your message effectively. Consider
the extent to which your classroom performance might be enhanced simply by better
Varying the pitch, volume,
quality, and rate of your voice enhances your expressiveness and overall style.
Vocal expressiveness helps establish relationships among ideas and emphasizes
specific points. It can also influence your credibility and students comprehension
and retention of ideas. Allow your voice to vary naturally--and vary it deliberately
once in a while, too.
Using eye contact displays
confidence and conveys an interest in students. Facial expressions animate the
material you wish to convey. Physical gestures--such as sweeping the air with
hands--help you clarify, describe, and emphasize points. Gesturing and moving
about the room can help constructively use up some of your nervous energy, too.
Be sure that you can be
seen and heard by students seated at various points in the classroom. Break
away from the podium, desk, or chalkboard. Use space to emphasize important
points, establish a desired relationship with students, and hold students
Try using constructive
(i.e., nonhostile) humor: Show cartoons or tell funny stories that relate a
point, put corny stickers that say Good Job! on assignments well
done, and add some joke to an exam or assignment. Students learn more when theyve
You can portray a particular
character--say, the central figure in the material being studied--using costumes
and other props. (But allow an opportunity for debriefing after
your role-play to be sure that students understood the overall point.) You may
also want to take on the role of narrator and tell a story to the class.
Bring a three dimensional
object or something to use with electronic media into the classroom to integrate
into the lecture or discussion. You can even sometimes use the students as props.
Props can also be used to address or direct classroom dynamics. For instance,
one professor takes out a piece of taffy and chews on it. As he chews, he expects
students to chew on the points he has made and digest
them. By the time he swallows, students always have some comments.
SUSPENSE AND SURPRISE
The use of suspense makes
material more intriguing for students. Try developing an anticipatory
set at the beginning of class: a question which you will answer by the
end of class. (Examples might be: What is heavy about heavy
water? or Why did Napoleon hold his hand inside his coat?)
You can display a prop destined for later use and let students guess what its
for. You can use surprise by beginning class with a surprising behavior or event.
Of course, to have the
energy and self-confidence to use props, surprising behaviors, jokes, and other
techniques noted above, you must prepare. In order to be enthused in the classroom,
you must capture the passion for the subject matter and for the teaching-learning
process. You must also practice using the props and other techniques before
trying them in the classroom.
Your dramatic skills will
also help you manage uncomfortable situations in the classroom. For instance,
you can carry a portable phone and pretend to make a call to someone when a
student is being disruptive (prop, humor). If students seem distracted or inattentive,
lose all body animation and give them the boy, am I bored look (physical
Adapted from Acting
Lessons for Teachers: AUsing Performance Skills in the Classroom (Robert
T. TAuber and Cathy Sargent Mester, 1994, Westport, CT: Praeger) by Martha McCaughey
for Office of Instructional Consultation under the supervision of Shirley Ronkowski.