Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to Make Students Want to Come to Class

Do your students look forward to your class? Are there too many tardies, bathroom requests, and absences? Perhaps your class is not exciting enough. There is good news, from a basketball coach of all people.

Many of my classes at UCLA were pretty boring. Granted, the information was valuable and often profound, particularly in Economics, Calculus, and Philosophy, but I really dreaded going to most classes because the format was so darned one-way didactic. What the professor lectured about was pretty much in the handouts or required reading. I found myself watching the clock, and that minute hand moved awfully slowly.

Not so from 2:59 to 5:29 at Pauley Pavilion where John Wooden conducted his basketball practices. Nobody was bored there because practices were extremely engaging and fun. Yes, that’s it! They were just plain fun. Oh don’t get me wrong; our bodies and minds were pushed to the limit and beyond, pretty much all practice long. There were times we were so exhausted our lungs burned and our legs were about to give out. But when practice was over, we didn’t want to leave and counted the hours until the next one.

How did Coach Wooden make us want to come back to practice the next day, when he subjected us to grueling, arduous, daunting, and exhausting practices, where he continuously and incessantly corrected us, apparently without any regard for our feelings, and hardly handed out a compliment, but rather, when we did something right, wanted more? Believe it or not, the answer is, basketball practices at UCLA were fun.

I can think of five ways he was able to pull this off. I’m not going to elaborate on any of them because I’m confident you will “get it.” And all five tools can be used in the classroom setting with equal success.

Start and End Class on Time
Don't Do Anything for More than Fifteen Minutes
Make a Game Out of Everything, if You Can
Enjoy the Lesson as much as the Students Do
End Every Day with Something Cool and Fun

Some might say, “A sports setting is, by nature, more exciting and fun than the classroom.” Not necessarily so. I’ve been in practices where, if it were not for the fact players were standing up, they could have fallen asleep. On the other hand, I’ve seen some classroom teachers make learning (I’m talking about hard and demanding learning) so much fun, they hold records for good attendance and the fewest tardies.


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