In Praise of the “slow” classroom

If there is one piece of valuable advice that could fit almost ALL teachers – it would be to “S L O W D O W N!”

One area of course is in terms of speaking speed. Teachers need to let students process language and really suck the communicative juice out of words. They need CI along with their O2! Comprehensible Input in the form of being able to follow the speaker and let the gears of their LAD (Language Acquisition Device) grind them bones and make the bread.

Teachers need not slow their actual speaking speed but like any good public speaker they need to pause. And pause often. Students need time to think about the content of which the words deliver. Only through pausing can teachers really help their students to both become “thinkers” and also use the language they model for language acquisition. People trying to process language, need a lot more time than native speakers. If you think you are pausing too much, you are probably pausing just right!

However, there is a much greater reason to S L O W D O W N. Learning.

Yes, that’s right. Teachers try to do too much! And in doing so, they do less. Teachers need to slow down and not try to accomplish so much. Stick to that one objective, all else is naught, in the lesson plan. Just bells and whistles and empty wind. Stick to the one objective and relax! Enjoy your students, bring humanity and quality to the fore and let quantity hang out at the backdoor, spinning in circles.

Learning is not “going somewhere”, it is not cumulative nor exponential. It is human and the relating of the individual to the world. At all times it is atemporal and against that slave master time. Teachers need to let their students enjoy, let their students soak up the connections and relationships everywhere. With language, students need more time actually playing with the language, producing it and just hanging out with it – instead of pounding it into death with quick strokes of the hungry and heavy plated hammer of memory and destruction.

And why do I say this? Well, language as Chomsky so often related is GROWTH. It isn’t something born quick, it is to be watered slowly and not built with a jackhammer and speeding dump truck. It is organic and needs time, water (the teacher) and sun (love/the human relationship).

I’d recommend this video talk by Carl Honore. He makes many valid points about our lives and which equally apply for teaching. Just note though, how he misses the boat by actually delivering a speech about “slowness” in supersonic speed! He’d of done well to convey his message in the actual process…..however, still a good talk.

Lastly, while writing this, I was reminded of this poem of one of my favs – Irving Layton. “There were no signs”. I think I’m reminded of this poem because it speaks to me that learning is not a destination. Learning is the destination!

There Were No Signs

By walking I found out
Where I was going.

By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.

By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.

Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.

From hypocrisy, I wove directness.

Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.

Another step
And I shall be where I started from.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. June 3, 2012

    […] 1. I have slowed down my delivery and instruction considerably. I used to just screech and scream through content. Now, I relax and pause a lot. I take time to enjoy the spaces together. I’ve realized students need things “a lot” slower and this leads to much more effective learning in the classroom.  See this previous post – In Praise of the Slow Classroom […]

  2. March 30, 2013

    […] away now” teaching – where the teacher doesn’t tell the student the answer but teaches slow and allows the learner to learn for themselves. It is about putting students back in control. Low […]

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