Book: Let's Lecture Less

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Introduction      Chapters 1 and 2  (this page)              Chapter 3 to end





The quotes marked with “aphorism*” are often exchanged between teachers.   Your help is needed to find out who said them first.  Quotes are in Helvetica (non-serif) font.


The teacher of the future is a GUIDE on the SIDE, not a sage on the stage. Aphorism*



Students in a social studies class in Bak Middle School of the Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida.  I watched Dennis Yuzenas act as a guide on the side (photos in this book come from visits in 2009-2011).

Education is NOT the filling of a pail, but rather the LIGHTING of a FIRE.  W. Yeats



Most students might forget what you taught them, but they will always remember how you treated them.  Aphorism*




I am a big obstacle to bringing Computer Assisted instruction into the classroom, because I love to perform.  Steve McCrea



I never let school get in the way of my education. Mark Twain



Drive out fear.  W. Edwards Deming




Keep "Talking Time" to a minimum.  Aphorism*





The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist.”  Maria Montessori




Let’s create people who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done.  Jean Piaget




Many teachers believe that they need to control how they teach and how they test. Other teachers negotiate with their students what they will learn, when they will learn it and how we will check that they have learned it.  Dennis Yuzenas,



Dennis Yuzenas set up this green screen in his classroom.  Recommended:  Get the camera closer to the speaker to improve the intimacy of the audio.




Until we find the child’s passion, it’s just school. When the child finds his passion, we teach to that passion. We can find internships for high school students: Kids say, “I love this internship!”   Dennis Littky,




Unfortunately, to most people, teaching is the giving of knowledge. What are you going to tell the students? What is your expertise? But teaching is really about bringing out what's already inside people.  Dennis Littky,



Students take turns making presentations in Boca Raton International School, Boca Raton, Fla.  The school uses the International Baccalaureate, which emphasizes the need for projects and discussions ( and


If individuals have different kinds of minds, with varied strengths, interests and strategies, then could biology, math and history be taught AND ASSESSED in a variety of ways?  Howard Gardner, Intelligence Reframed, p. 167.




Trust. Truth. No Put-downs. Active Listening. Personal Best. Seen on a banner at, St. Louis, Mo.


The voyage of life must be seen as an adventure. People learn from experiences - good, bad or indifferent.  Aren't we blessed with brains (much of which we don't even use), aren't we social beings (and seek to create barriers to separate ourselves)?  Somewhere along the line, the spirit of exploration, that buzz of excitement at finding something new, has got lost. The urge to ask questions, query everything, be satisfied with nothing until our own uncertainty is cleared up, has died in the glass. Why should "adults know everything" when it is patently not true, and why should children have the amazing feeling of wide-eyed discoverers hammered out of them in regimented classes taught by dull, jaded teachers with no inspiration?  If it's Tuesday, this must be page 46. Why should children be treated as "ignorant"?  Invention means: "If you can make it work, if nobody's done it like that before, you're an inventor!" Don't we need inventors?


Where is the joy of discovery?  The disappointment when something doesn't work?  Or simply the Simpson-esque feeling of "Meeh"?  We need all of these, and our collaborative spirit, to try again, change something, create.


Break the chain. Involve the children, then the parents and the libraries and all the media, and the neighbours  and the teachers and the local councillors and the representatives, Congressmen  and women... Give ourselves the proverbial kick up the .... . Remove the fuzzy comfort zone and seek newness. Share. Live more!   Cary Elcome  English language teaching expert (academic, specific and general), examinations trainer (TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS, EIKEN), theses and dissertations editor and proofreader, business text writer. E-mail me for details.



How can projects and discussions be helpful to students who are not linguistic, sequential learners?  How do projects help the random learner who has auditory or visual, musical or interpersonal, or kinesthetic learning style?  Answer:  Within a project there are many different ways that individuals can make a contribution. For example,  they can build a model; they can draw a picture; they can do some research and make a presentation to others; if it lends itself,  they can write a short play;  they can compose a song.  A project allows people to work together to accomplish a task where each can contribute to the whole.  Soft learning (such as team responsibility, sharing, critical thinking) is the goal.  Abraham S. Fischler



Should teachers be entertainers? I want to say instead:  Learning should be fun to the learner.  Classrooms should be exciting. Students should be the performers. Teachers should be facilitators and motivators, asking students to think about challenging problems.  Teachers should reward success, using language that makes learners feel good about themselves:  “You can do it.”  Abraham S. Fischler



Mario’s four-part use of quotes


Quotations are effective ways of engaging the mind with “scaffolding” (support).  By asking the student to focus on someone else’s excellent thoughts, we assure the student that it is time well spent.  The student will receive the reward from that effort and might turn to look at another quote.


Exercise 1

The teacher has ten quotes and ten interpretations.  The teacher asks a student to read the quote and then asks students to work in pairs and small groups to figure out what the quote means. 

Procedure:  A student reads a quote and asks, “What does this mean?”  The students then discuss in pairs and small groups.  The teacher can model an example, if necessary. 


Exercise 2

The teacher has ten quotes and eight interpretations.  The students try to match the interpretations with the quotes. The students work in pairs and small groups. 

Procedure:  A student reads a quote and asks, “Who has the interpretation of this quote?”  Another student answers, “I have it.” Then the group listens to the interpretation and decides if the match is correct.


Exercise 3

Now the students have to find the quotes in a list or book that the teacher provides. 

Procedure:  Each student then builds an interpretation of the quote, writes the interpretation, and the interpretations are shuffled and distributed.  The group then tries to match the student-written interpretations to the selected quotes. 


Exercise 4

In the highest level of the game, the students WRITE their own quotes.  They make up something that they have never seen written in that particular way.  (This stage is fairly advanced and is suited for older students.) 

Procedure:  Each student also generates the interpretation, as in Exercise 3, and the quote and interpretation are separated, shuffled and distributed to the teams as in previous exercises.


This activity is described on Youtube at “Mario Llorente quotes” 


Mario:  The activity itself is less important than what happens later.  A student who has heard an important quote, which is a highly distilled idea, will probably think about that idea later that day or when the quote is seen on a wall.  The definition and interpretation of that quote will resonate in the student.  Four or five days later, you’ll say, “Do you want to play the game of quotes?” and they’ll say, “Yeah!” 

The end of lecturing

Let’s stop speaking to everyone at the same time




Let's Lecture Less

A typical lecture at university involves a speaker giving information to an audience.  Students take notes and then they ask questions at the end of the presentation.   Schools have depended on this method of teaching and learning for centuries.  Entire industries exist because many teachers use lectures as the primary method of communicating with students.  



Here are things we know now after years of research:

1.  Speed:  We students learn at different speeds.  


2.  Methods:  We learn differently.  We have different learning styles.  We take in information in different ways (Howard Gardner)


3.  Performing Our Understanding:  Since there are many ways of taking in information, so why don't we use many different ways to show that we learned something?   Howard Gardner calls this a "performance of understanding."

an essay

a multiple-choice test (also known as a multiple-guess test)

a fill-in-the-blanks test

a stand up exhibition (Met Center in Providence Rhode Island)

a project

a video

a digital portfolio (see

a poster



4.  Motivation:  Our listening improves when we are motivated to learn.  Our listening improves with “test-teach-test” -- when teachers ask questions first, creating gaps of understanding, then there is a desire to fill those gaps; the teaching can be unstructured or structured discovery by the student, then the second test checks the comprehension.  


5.  Learning with projects.  There is an engineering school in Arizona that has no separated courses.  The program is designed around projects.    You don't take a course in statistics or chemistry, you include statistics and physics in your project.  A high school that uses this concept is Met Center in Providence, Rhode Island.  One teacher advises 15 students in all subjects for four years.  Subjects are integrated in projects.


6.  Participation:  Many of us love the word "lecture."  Many of us believe that listening to a professor speak is the premier method of mass instruction.   We believe so strongly that students need to listen to the professor that we call them the "audience."  


From now on, let’s ask the audience to do the “Lecture of the Future.”  The speaker is in the room to check the understanding of the audience.  The purpose of the class is not to hear the speaker talk.  The speaker’s purpose is to check the understanding of members of the audience.    


We learn much from our peers.  The clever teacher divides the text into parts.  Groups of students prepare presentations about the reading.  The teacher does not give a lecture because the students are taking turns giving parts of the lecture.   The teacher checks understanding and fills in extra information.   You can see this working in a video on YouTube (search “omar vasile”). 



The entire class session should be recorded so that the presenter can learn how to improve and the participants don't need to take notes (or they can later check what they wrote against the YouTube upload).


Every spoken question is typed and projected on the wall to "get inside the world" of the slower listener.




No more boring classes:  If students fall asleep in class, the teacher is offered additional training and support.


No more "audio-only" public announcements in schools.  Someone writes keywords on the board to assist students who prefer to read to receive information.


Thank you for your attention.  Any questions?  





From the December 2011 issue of Discover magazine:


More interactive approaches include immediately and repeatedly putting new information to use. Students in science courses were continually asked questions and the students were put into small work groups to solve problems using the material they had just learned.  

In a recent study, one section of a physics course about electromagnetic waves was taught by the cognitive approach, while another section was taught by the standard course lecture. The first group scored an average of 74 percent when tested on the material, while the second group scored only 41 percent.

Teachers tend to focus on one subject for several classes and then move on to another one, often causing students to lose touch with whatever knowledge they had just acquired.

But recalling old lessons is just a matter of training. A group of students was briefly pushed every day to revisit earlier material, while a second group just moved ahead with the new material. “After eight weeks, the group that did daily reviews became just as good at switching back and forth between new and old material as adults are,” she says, adding that test scores also increased. “It’s a simple classroom change that can make a big difference.”

Science Finds a Better Way to Teach Science:  Get rid of the classroom lecture by David H. Freedman (Impatient Futurist)


When teachers try to make instruction equal for all students, they will fail. Rather, the teacher … should provide a wide collection of activities that make possible equivalent learning experiences for students using approaches that recognize fundamental differences between learners, distant and local. Equivalence is more time-consuming and difficult, but promises to be more effective.

Michael Simonson, Trends and Issues in Distant Education:  International Perspectives, page 285 





I think a student like me should use really modern methods.  To learn English (or another language), studying the perfect grammar at school is only the beginning. The real way to learn English perfectly is practicing. So it's a really good way using Facebook (for example, my best friend's American, so I always talk in English with her and it really helps me) and then talking about things we like.

You should give the student all the things you know and then let her choose the things he/she wants to do.  Most teachers think that being under pressure makes us give our best. THAT'S NOT TRUE.  When I'm anxious or nervous, I really cannot do anything.  It's like I am blocked.  So I think that the right way to improve is feeling comfortable and doing things that interest us.

Arianna Costantin, Milano, 13 August 2010

Two teachers shared with me how they work as “guides on the side.” 


I teach college level students and find peer tutoring to be a good strategy. Being able to show others how to solve problems and discuss different approaches is effective.  It builds their confidence in their skills and the small group is less intimidating.  As the semester goes on I often find students in our math lab working together on assignments and studying for exams.    Eileen Perez



It is important to learn by doing.  I teach students ages 5 to 7 and I ask them to teach each other (“peer-tutoring”).  They learn from each other so well and the teacher can accomplish the same objectives without lecturing.

Hands-on-activities also help students retain information. I agree with the  quote by Zull (2002), since lecturing does not help me retain very much information.  Aparna Bhargava



Note the guidelines described by Richard Clark in his 2012 American Educator article

Go to Chapter 3