Sunday, January 29, 2012

Facilitative versus Traditional Teaching

I've been working on an academic paper recently about facilitative versus traditional lecture-style teaching. Anyone who has studied teaching methods recently knows that facilitative teaching is widely accepted as the better learning method. Paulo Freire's writings on the "banking" method, where the teacher sees the students as empty vessels waiting to filled, and thus projects ignorance on students, makes it clear that this is not an ideal learning, or teaching, situation. I'm no extremist, and I think that traditional lecturing is appropriate under certain circumstances, as long as the power differential doesn't suggest "I'm all-knowing and you are not," but why do some teachers still rely heavily on lecturing rather than facilitating when circumstances permit?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and for me, there are a lot of reasons, but I think the time I fall back on lectures when I shouldn't is because facilitation introduces risk, and a lack of control in the classroom. If I'm lecturing, I have my notes; I know how long it will take; I can direct questions and answers. If I'm facilitating a group discussion, I don't have this control. I have to admit, that I am sometimes uncomfortable leaving a chunk of time to be directed by the students, because it leaves open the possibility of all kinds of risk and even "chaos" as some theorists call it.

Of course one of the great things about facilitation is that the teacher learns right along with the students, but sometimes this also, pardon my French, scares the crap out of me. What if I learn something that changes the way I think about the topic at hand? I'm not afraid to learn new things and change my thinking, in fact, I welcome it, but having this happen in front of an entire classroom makes me wonder if I'll have the wherewithal to be able to keep my wits about me, articulate what I mean, and not be a stuttering idiot in front of my students. I was never afraid to explore brand new thought processes out loud as a student, but as a teacher, it seems like there's much more at stake.

The times when I have taken the plunge for facilitative teaching when I've been tempted to lecture have all well been worth it. In fact, after a recent class period, I had several students comment on what a great class it was that day. I said "thank you," but the truth is, I hadn't said much of anything at all, or prepared much of anything besides a facilitative-type activity. They had done the work and had been fully invested. They were satisfied, and had a successful experience. So what I should have said, was, "No, thank YOU!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Talk Radio for Teachers

Today I added a widget to the sidebar on the right that will allow you to listen to talk radio for teachers! TBA Radio Today is from the Teaching Blog Addict (a website you should most definitely visit for discussions of all things educational) and features a variety of guests - teachers, authors, administrators etc...Inspirational stuff. I like to listen while I prepare my lesson plans.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Free Ethos, Pathos, Logos Handouts

I have always been a huge fan of Queen Elizabeth I's speech meant to encourage her troops to fight an inevitable invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588. Besides being fascinated by the royal "we" and all that entailed, I found the speech a model for persuasive techniques. Take this example:

“Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation or disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all."

What better example of ethos, or establishing yourself as a person of character, trust and integrity, could there be? She made herself appear strong, unafraid, loyal and at one with the people all at the same time. I used this example, and two other examples of famous speeches to demonstrate ethos, pathos and logos on these free handouts. Copy them and pass them out to your students, or use them as transparencies while teaching.

Click on the pictures below or the cover above to download the file.

Each one has an illustration (by the fabulous Brennyn Carmen), an explanation and example. These handouts are included in my persuasive writing unit, but they stand alone for many purposes. I hope you find them useful!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


If you haven't yet found pinterest, you are missing something that has become a major time-suck for me, albeit a good one! This addictive website is like an interactive bulletin board. It's hard to describe, so check it out for yourself. Here's a link to my curriculum board:, but you also might like my fun food and other boards. Get ready to become a pin-addict!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Writing a Persuasive Essay Unit

I finally completed the full unit for writing a persuasive essay! It's amazing that it takes me as long as it does, because everything there is what I already use in the classroom. I'm learning that I'm not nearly as organized as I think I am. When units develop over time, I have a file here, a file there, and most of the files in my head! I make these units to benefit other teachers, but I probably benefit more than anyone, because now all my stuff is in one place.

I used the pre-writing exercise in my class last night for a slightly different purpose, but it was as fun as ever. Even my students who are terrified to speak in front of the class participated enthusiastically. I told them they were about the be shipwrecked on an island and could only grab one bag of supplies. I laid out three items for each of three bags, and told them the problem was that two other people were with them and they each wanted a different bag. The task was to convince the other two, using ethos, pathos and logos, why they should choose the bag you wanted. It was hilarious, especially when they tried to establish pathos, or using emotion.

I asked one guy, who I know has serious anxiety issues about speaking in front of the class, how it was for him, because he seemed perfectly calm and he said, "Well, the subject matter was so interesting, and I wanted to have my say, so I just didn't think about being nervous." Score.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ethos, Pathos and Logos in Ads

Before the holiday break, I was teaching persuasive writing techniques to my students. This last week, I was laid up and couldn't do much but watch TV. Out of boredom, I began deconstructing commercials to see which persuasive techniques, ethos, pathos and logos, they used.

The most overt were the pathos-based ads soliciting money for abused or abandoned animals. Just try not be emotionally sucked in by a shaking puppy with big, sad eyes with Sarah McLaughlin singing "Silent Night" in the background. The name of the organization could have been "Creepy Guys Who Don't Really Care About Animals" and people would still open their wallets.

I was also struck by the number of actors in white doctor coats (ethos!) touting this or that. It must work, because apparently even prescription drug ads where the "doctor" tells you (as an older couple strolls through a wildflower field) that your tongue might turn purple and your eyeballs might fall out if you use the drug, are plentiful.

This could be a useful exercise in the classroom, using magazine ads for simplicity's sake if showing commercials aren't an option. After a review of ethos, pathos and logos, (I'll have a free lesson plan on this coming soon) you could divide the students into groups and have them watch commercials or go through a magazine and find and discuss examples of all three persuasion techniques.

I just completed a persuasive essay unit, and I asked my daughter to do illustrations to represent ethos, pathos and logos. When I got the one she did for pathos, I cracked up. I don't know if squirrels actually need saving, but who could resist those chubby little squirrel cheeks?