Assignments, audio-visual aids and good questioning techniques can be effective ways of teaching in the classroom.

We had seen two styles of teaching in the classroom — the lecture and the guided discussion. There are many other methods that can be used in a classroom.

Assignments

We are familiar with the ‘home work' given by schoolteachers. Many teachers overdo it by making it a cumbersome ordeal for the children, who would get no spare time after clearing the heavy home work.

For example, if a teacher asks the pupils to solve twenty numerical problems involving a single mathematical principle, the pupils are likely to hate that lesson in mathematics.

Perhaps two or three problems would have been sufficient. The teacher may have the fond hope that enforcing this kind of tedious repetitive drill would make even the dullest pupil to master that kind of problem, thereby guaranteeing hundred per cent pass in the subject in the examination.

But it is a thoughtless act on the part of the teacher; the effort is counterproductive.

Home assignments are an extension to classroom teaching.

If planned well and executed properly, assignments help the teaching-learning process in several ways. Some of the merits of properly designed home assignment are the following:

Reinforces the learning in the classroom

Makes the pupil revise the lessons

Gives opportunities to the pupil to recall, reflect, and apply the principles already learnt

Creates new insights

Enhances reference habit

Develops learning skills

Increases speed in numerical work

Develops confidence in writing paragraphs or essays

Confirms skills in meeting deadlines

Trains the pupil in self-discipline and perseverance

Assignments may include reading suggested areas of literature and preparing notes, solving of numerical problems, drawing sketches, making models or charts, preparing essays or presentations, learning poems by heart, and so on.

The matter to be submitted should not be something that can be copied directly from textbooks or the Internet. Pupils should be able to carry out the assignments independently, without help or assistance from parents.

Teachers should insist that the assignments are submitted on time.

So also, they should correct the assignments and promptly return them to the students, with constructive comments.

Other styles: There are many other styles of teaching like demonstration of scientific experiments, and carrying out projects.

Styles such as tutorials, mutual lectures, team teaching, brain trusts, programmed learning and instructional visits are beyond the scope of our current discussion.

Audio-visual aids

There is a wide variety of audio-visual aids a teacher can use. The chalkboard, slides, charts, static or dynamic models, overhead transparencies, PowerPoint projection, and short films are some of them. An aid has to be wisely chosen to suit the lesson most appropriately. Aids should not be used just for the sake of using them.

The most convenient, versatile, and flexible visual aid is the chalkboard. It is the most popular among teaching aids. Whatever teachers write on the board should be legible, and visible to all the pupils in the class. They should never hurriedly scribble anything on the board. Every letter should be clear. All new words or technical terms should be written on the board. It is a good idea to divide the board into two by a vertical line right through. One part may be used to write new terms, draw sketches, etc. In the other part the teacher may write all the significant points in the lecture as he proceeds.

The written presentation would help the pupils to register the points in their minds. Further, these points can be used to give a quick summary at the end of the class. Of course, you may have to make appropriate modifications in this suggestion to accommodate the special features in the depth and width of the lesson. All said and done, there is a lot of truth in what a cynic once remarked: “The most important audiovisual aid in a classroom is the teacher”!

Questioning techniques

The best method to ensure pupils' participation in classroom teaching is the judicious use of questioning techniques. Very often teachers feel that if they tell something, the pupils grasp it. But this is not true.

A pupil may be staring at the teacher's face; but his mind may be elsewhere. However, if the teacher poses questions and ask the pupils to answer, they have to focus their attention on the lesson. But questioning has to be done thoughtfully, if the desired results have to be achieved. Questioning can be used in the classroom for various purposes.

Eliciting information (prior learning/ depth of assimilation)

Revising lessons

Consolidating the ideas in the lessons already handled

Logical development of the lesson

Probing into difficulties of the pupils

Forcing the class to think

Rousing curiosity and interest

Feedback to measure success of teaching

Evaluation of pupils

The teacher should follow right strategies in questioning

Precise, simple wording

Plan and prepare main questions in advance. Supplementary questions will have to be framed then and there depending on pupils' responses

Pose, pause, point. The 3-P style is important. The teacher should first pose the question, and pause for a few seconds for allowing the entire class to think of the possible answers. This develops collective thinking in the classroom. After the pause, the teacher can point a particular pupil to answer the question. If the teacher first points a pupil and then poses the question, other pupils will ignore the question under the impression that the responsibility of answering vests with the pupil who stands selected by the teacher. This beats the very objective of questioning. So also, if the teacher poses a question, points a pupil, and then goes on saying “Next, Next, Next” pointing the neighbouring pupils, those sitting in other parts of the classroom will not apply their minds to answering the question.

Do not use yes / no type of questions. Either answer has 50 per cent probability to be right. The pupils would blindly guess and give an answer.

Do not pose a question with several good answers. There should be only one correct answer.

Do not ask open-ended questions like “What do you know about the independence struggle in India?”

Avoid vagueness in questions. The phrases should have clarity. There should be no ambiguity. If the pupil requests clarification on the substance of the question, give it straightaway. You may rephrase the question. But do not make sudden jumps in a hurry. Always give time for thinking.

Do not ask a student several questions in a sequence

Do not ask questions which require long answers

When a pupil gives the right answer, the teacher should repeat it for the benefit of those who have not heard it properly.

Do not accept unsolicited answers. Some bright students may stretch their hands, volunteering to answer. If the teacher accepts such answers, other pupils will stop thinking.

Distribute the questions evenly among the pupils. Never leave out slow learners. If necessary, use elliptical questions for slow learners. They may have to fill in only a gap of one or two words. The teacher would have given the major part of the answer in the question itself.

Correct wrong answers

Avoid tricky / very hard questions. Not a television quiz programme.

Give due credit for right answers. Comment, “Aha, that's a fine idea”, “Could you improve the answer?''

Avoid expressions like “Can anyone tell me?”, “What rubbish?”, “Are you working hard?”.

Never use questions as a tool for punishment, or to silence an erring student

Encourage reverse questions. Pupils should feel free to raise doubts or seek clarification at any stage.

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