It’s easy to see why many teachers prefer whole group instruction. Lecture, discussion, debate, teacher demonstrations and giving directions to the whole class at one time provide an efficient way to deliver information and require less planning and instruction time than small group and individual strategies.
When using a lecture strategy, many of the shortcomings of the strategy can be overcome with proper preparation and adjusting the lesson as needed while presenting it.
Students who have poor listening skills should be seated near the teacher with possible distractions removed from the area.
The effectiveness of a lecture lesson will rely largely upon knowing the students’ schema (prior knowledge) regarding the topic. A pre-lesson discussion of the topic can give the teacher a good indication of the students’ prior knowledge in that specific area.
As all students’ attention spans are limited, stops and starts in the lecture for note taking, supports for note taking (hand-outs), interactive activities, and interesting visuals should be part of the lecture lesson plan to keep students’ interest.
The best way to overcome the lecture strategy’s shortcomings is to deliver the lecture fluently and with enthusiasm. Lecture is an art. I think most educators can recall a time when they had their class figurately hanging on their every word. What a powerful thing that is!
Teacher should keep in mind that some topics lend themselves well to the lecture format while others do not.
Considerations when preparing for using a discussion strategy include checking students’ prior knowledge, making sure the topic is appropriate for discussion, providing an opportunity for all students to take part, writing questions to prompt and guide the discussion, planning a summarizing activity, and what is perhaps the most important practical aspect of preparing for a discussion – developing guidelines for students to follow.
Learners will need instruction about and practice using discussion guidelines before effective discussion can take place.
Guidelines are also integral to the success of the debate strategy.
Another essential part of preparing for a debate is choosing an appropriate topic. Grade level, prior knowledge, and choosing an intellectual topic over a potentially emotional topic are all important considerations in choosing a debate topic.
The instructor must also plan for a concluding activity. This summary may take several different forms, but it is important that the material presented is reviewed so that it remains with the students long after the debate has ended.
Teacher demonstration is also a whole class strategy. Demonstrations are done for many reasons including a limited amount of materials or time, showing students a procedure to follow, and limiting student exposure to dangerous materials or tools.
This strategy, like the other whole group strategies, benefits from advance preparation. Materials should be gathered and the procedure should be practiced well before the learners see it.
To make this strategy successful, students should be involved, whether through note taking, review, or a brief assessment following the demonstration.
Giving directions is a commonly-used teacher-centered whole group presentation. It’s really more a teacher tool than a teaching strategy.
Tasks should be well defined. As is the case with other whole group presentations, pre-planning is essential to the success of the students when working with teacher directions.
Directions should not be given until the teacher has all the students’ attention. The directions should be presented both orally and in written form and complicated directions should include a checklist setting forth each step of the directions along with assessment information and a scoring rubic, if applicable.
The Key Elements for Classroom Management, Joyce McLeod, Jan Fisher, and Ginny Hoover, copyright 2003, ASCD, Alexandria, Virginia