Pick up the P.A.C.E.
I’m sure we all agree that a critical aspect of any lesson is teaching at a speed at which pupils can thrive. The content of a lesson isn’t enough to keep a class full of young minds engaged if they become bored with how long it is taking for them to learn, or if they keep missing crucial parts of the lesson because you are moving too quickly.
Although both extremes present problems, it’s sometimes easier to distinguish if the pace is too fast, as pupils will usually tell you they don’t understand, or they need more time to complete a task. However, when the lesson is moving too slowly, the symptoms can be harder to decipher. Pupils who are normally focused may become distracted, behavioural management may become more difficult and you might feel like you are dragging your class through the lesson.
While these signs could be misread as the children struggling to keep up, and you may feel inclined to slow down the lesson to help them grasp the content, this is the last thing you should do!
Your pupils are BORED.
Even the best teachers will have faced this problem at least once in their teaching career, so there is no shame in recognising this problem in your classroom. So, if you notice your lessons slowing down, and if your pupils are disengaged and tired: action must be taken.
So, what can you do to pick up the tempo?
Using our acronym, P.A.C.E., you can learn how to keep a steady pace in your learning environment.
If you don’t know where you are going, it’s inevitably going to take you longer to get there. It’s important, not only that you understand how your lesson is laid out, but that your pupils do too! Make sure you take time to prepare for your lesson before entering the classroom, and that you have a clear outline of how it will be delivered.
Tip: In the same way that you might present your learning objectives on the whiteboard, we suggest making yourself a quick “to-do” list for your lesson. This can be a less formal addition to your lesson planning and will help keep you on track; writing down goals helps to achieve them.
Recognising that there is a problem with how a lesson is being delivered can be discouraging, but is the first step to rectifying the issue. The sooner you accept that there is a problem with the pace of your lessons, the sooner you can fix it. Forgive yourself, forgive your pupils, and in the words of Monty Python: get on with it!
Often, the pace of a lesson can be greatly affected by whether your material is challenging enough for your pupils. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for a class, and it’s up to you to ensure you know your pupils well enough to challenge them with tasks they will find exciting and engaging. Obviously, we are big fans of differentiation (read our blog on why that’s important, here) but we also recognise the importance of tailoring lesson plans to the specific needs of classes as a whole, as much as necessary keep your pupils challenged. This can mean that, if you are teaching multiple year 5 groups, some will have completely different structures and even different content, than others. Keeping your pupils challenged and engaged is part of keeping a lesson moving.
Take action when you notice the symptoms of a slow-rolling lesson. Don’t wait until the lesson is over to change course. If you identify that something is not working: fix it. It’s easy to check in with your class throughout a lesson to evaluate how your pupils feel about the material you are presenting them with. If they are able to accurately demonstrate their knowledge of a subject, it’s important you are ready to challenge them with new activities to help engrain that knowledge, and that you can present them with new concepts if they are ready.
Tip: Check in regularly with your pupils. Don’t wait until the end of a lesson to assess whether they are grasping the content. Try to check in at least 3 times, so you have time to adjust, and make the most of your time with your pupils.
What do you think? Do you have any suggestions on how to keep up the PACE of a lesson in your classroom? We would love to hear them!