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Long gone are the days of chalk and talk, five days a week.  Knowledge acquisition is not just about being told; being shown is vital.  Students must experience their learning through their senses.  In order to keep up with the changing way in which we acquire knowledge tapping into visual learning is key and with modern technology under-exploited in terms of teaching style.

Pupils both expect and deserve more than a static, 2D teaching style– young people have been born into a dynamic visual age – orating in front of the class simply isn’t enough.  If we all remember back to our school days then the teachers we remember will likely have had a teaching style with charisma and they brought lessons to life through their own animation.  The classroom on offer to pupils shouldn’t be a static visual one, but a dynamically visual, and interactive one.

So, in this respect, how can we: enhance learning, increase knowledge and understanding, and share and create in an innovative way?

There are of course endless ways, however, for the purpose of brevity and focus I will concentrate on two approaches that might help us freshen up our teaching style:

  1. To teach and develop the skill of showing rather than telling
  2. Integrating short visual clips and imagery into lessons to: introduce, consolidate, model, recap and extend

In order to improve as a writer showing rather than telling is a key skill.  Showing without telling enables the writer to hold something back, you can engage the reader with the possible – challenge their curiosity – keep them hooked.  Yet, if you tell them too much: you lose them, they drift, they disengage.  Let’s take two descriptions delivering the same information:

Sentence one:

The girl walked along the street and then she fell over.

Sentence two:

Cautiously, the young girl edged along the pavement.  Sweat dripped from her brow, it trickled slowly down her face (in contrast with her heart which beat like a Broadway drum).  Her legs’ gave way and the pavement hurtled ever closer… 

The same thing happens with exactly the same consequence. Yet, sentence one merely tells us what happens whilst sentence two takes us on a journey. Frame by frame, the reader is shown what happens, allowing them to feel, see and hear the character’s experience.

This frame by frame approach is highlighted beautifully in Slowing down time (in writing & film) – Aaron Sitze (a clip from TED Ed.)

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This excellent clip highlights the importance of the visual whilst trying to teach the skill of showing rather than telling.  A frame by frame approach is highlighted which creates a juxtaposition between creating film and writing.  On reading a text, readers should feel like they have experienced an event: felt the nerves, smelt the popcorn, tasted the victory!

Literature is rich with this technique; one modern example can be found in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.  In one particular excerpt we find out about the character of Nazneen, as she walks through the streets of Brick Lane we are shown her experiences; the sights and sounds give us clues to her character and most importantly how she thinks others perceive her.

In an increasingly digital society – short bursts of the visual are integral to learning.  Short film clips can bring a genre to life; when writing fiction they can help you move beyond a features list.

A film or television clip can create a different angle and it is a great way to discuss the frame by frame approach of showing rather than telling.  Let’s take Doctor Who, for example, it is a television series which relies heavily on the visual but is also supported by a well crafted script.  It slows down time and visits a new genre each week – the ultimate teaching tool in literacy!

A recent episode called Hide, demonstrates skilled writing in the fantasy narrative text.  Set in a haunted house it is a great way to link with the fantasy narrative text by Penelope Lively – The Ghost of Thomas Kempe.  It uses a frame by frame approach which shows the viewer what is happening –- building tension frame by frame – a technique which can be transferred to great effect in writing.  It’s a much used technique in film and television and can be easy to see when you are consciously looking for it.

Whether teachers and educators use video clips, embed links, or use interactive games the importance of dynamic visual learning is indisputable.  In a world ruled by visual imagery, capturing students’ imaginations through a learning environment which stimulates the senses and inspires is the way of the future.

This article aims to lay out the case for our personal teaching style to be increasingly dynamic, visual, and interactive and in future articles we will look at techniques, tools, and insights as to how this can be achieved one step at a time to enable us as professionals to capture the imagination and impart knowledge.  After all how much time do we devote to reflection, review, and development of our personal teaching style?  Maybe with some insights we can all continue to develop in this area to maximise new opportunities.

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