Teacher PD ideas: How to Speak so They Understand.

by | Nov 9, 2023 | 1 Minute Mastery, Facilitating and Presenting | 0 comments

We believe that teacher PD ideas should include information that is practical and useful to teachers. I have been in education 40 years, and yet I have never been to any teacher PD about communication skills.  Communication:  That’s how we do our jobs, right?  In this article we will discuss one easy-to-implement yet powerful skill that will guarantee when you talk, your students will understand what you are saying. This is a 1 Minute Mastery skill called “Go Slow Mo”.  At the end of this article is a 1 Minute Mastery video demonstrating this impressive strategy.

Teacher PD ideas: The Curse of Knowledge

1 Minute Mastery videos are all focused on researched-based solutions to common classroom problems. The skill of “Go Slow Mo” was created to stop the confusion that is often created in the minds of the students by the teachers having a condition called “The Curse of Knowledge”.  Teachers usually love the subject matter they are teaching, and have often taught it for many years. They know this material backwards and forwards, and it is just a part of their DNA.  The curse comes in when they are teaching that lesson.  The information is so familiar that when new, unusual or foreign vocabulary is introduced, these words are said at the lightning speed of someone who is very fluent with this information and automatically say it quickly, at conversational speed.

An issue is that it takes some time to first hear, then understand and comprehend a new, unusual or foreign word to a student.  This is compounded by the fact that 3-5% of students in the United States have auditory processing difficulties. Additionally, there is a growing number of bilingual students in the United States. A recent U.S. survey found that 22.6% of students spoke a language other than English at home. Just those two groups combined, on average, account for almost ⅓ of all students who have some difficulty with language in our classrooms.  That is challenging enough, but if they hear words like longitude and latitude, mitosis and meiosis and hypotenuse at a breakneck speed, their brains just can’t comprehend the new vocabulary. 

We have all experienced this. Have you ever had someone speak to you in a foreign language, or even overheard a conversation not in your native language?  To me it sounds like an unbroken stream of sounds.  I can’t comprehend even a single word. Many of our students feel like that every day.

So how can we help them learn our cherished topics?  With the skill of “Go Slow Mo”. These are the kind of teacher PD ideas we need right now.  I learned this skill on a cruise ship!  There was a sommelier giving a class on wine tasting.  I wanted to learn to be fancy and sophisticated, so I went to the class (in my swimsuit and flip flops). This guy was amazing.  I have my doctorate degree but sometimes I don’t feel super-eloquent even in English and I don’t speak any other language fluently. This man spoke 5 languages, including English, fluently.  He did have an accent, but was easily understood.  He came out and said 4 words that taught me this skill.  You see, after learning 5 different languages, he understood how important it is to hear new, unusual or foreign words clearly and slowly.  He started by saying “I am a sommelier”. Then he said it again, slowly, with pauses in-between the syllables: “So-mole-yeah”.   I sat back on my seat and said to myself “Got it… Thank you for that lesson.

How to do the skill “Go Slow Mo” 

You may have noticed that every time I have written the word sommelier in this article I put it in italics to set it off from regular print.  When we are introducing new words to our students, we need to set it apart from the rest of our lesson with vocal italics.  Here’s what you do

  1. Before you say the new, unusual or foreign word for the first time, take a slight pause
  2. When you say the word say it s-l-o-w-l-y
  3. Put another pause after you say the new word, before continuing to teach.

The whole thing could sound like this:

“Ok boys and girls today were are going to learn about

(pause) lon-gi-tude (pause) and (pause) la-ti-tude (pause)

It’s that easy. Once you try it and it becomes part of your professional practice, you will start to hear it other people not doing it all the time!

Skills like “Go Slow Mo” are the kind of teacher PD ideas that we think should be taught to every teacher, regardless of level.  If you would like effective, practical strategies to solve common classroom problems, check out 1 Minute Mastery.  Every week of the year, a short video, no more than two minutes in length, will be delivered to your email inbox. You can then practice just that one new skill for an entire week, to make it part of your professional practice. 

Enjoy the 1 MInute Mastery video of the skill “Go Slow Mo”.

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