Book: Effective Lectures by Mario Llorente

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


The Skillful Use of Lectures


In defense of the proper use of the lecture


By Mario Joel Llorente Leyva



The lecture is an important way of building rapport and respect in the students. When students hear a stimulating delivery of a well-reasoned argument, they admire the speaker. The lecture can quickly fill the audience with a sense of awe.


Think of a politician. How do we judge that person? By how much he or she makes us think? By how much we learn from that person? Or by how we are impressed by the arguments that the politicians deliver to us?


In the same way, a good teacher will inspire the audience with the lecture to learn more, to emulate the style, to learn how to impress other audiences. A lecture is an important start to a strong relationship between teacher and student. The lecture might not be the most effective way for transferring information into long-term storage, but it is an excellent way for motivating students to take time to learn. A lecture might be the way to start the conversation between teacher and student. The lecture is a way to open a door for the students to perceive a new world.


A lecture can stun the students, inspire them and fascinate them. There should be well-placed lectures scattered in every course, even if each mini-lecture is only two minutes long. It is long enough to catch the attention of the students and then fill them with a desire to duplicate and surpass the teacher.


And then the lecturer can step back and facilitate the learning.





Ten Points


I hope the quotes and the photos in this book so far have created in you a new definition of “school.”  Instead of a place where you must “be quiet, take notes and repeat what the teacher says,” school can be a place where students discover their strengths and develop new skills.


I put this story on my website


The story

In 2009 I was teaching a class of students from Italy and three of their teachers asked to sit in my class. The teachers took notes. "How did you learn to teach this way?" they asked me. "I copy Dennis Littky's method: (1) Ask students about their goals. (2) Help them learn the skills they need to reach their goals."


Theory: Teachers of English in classes of fewer than 14 students tend to spend less time lecturing. These teachers usually ask students "what do you want to learn to talk about?"  They can show other teachers how to lecture less.  James Zull observed that his students fell into a passive state of mind when he lectured to them.  He stopped talking at his students and he asked them to do projects and to ask him questions.  Sometimes he starts talking at his students again ... and they start to become passive again ...  page 127 in his book The Art of Changing the Brain (2002).


Teachers of English know how to get students involved in the lesson -- and teachers of other subjects might copy those techniques to make their lessons more active and engaging.



Below are some of the basic techniques that I use in my classroom. I invite you to contact me with suggestions.  How about inviting me to your school?  We can exchange tips.  I tried to identify ten points and I threw in some more as a bonus.   To learn more about these points, please visit



1.  Each child has an individual education plan (IEP) based on the student's strengths, personality and learning style.


2.  A focus on passions:   Each kid studies the parts of the curriculum he wants to


3.  Connect the curriculum with skill building.   


4.  Learning by watching, learning with hands-on experience.


5. Exhibitions in addition to written tests.


6.  Projects, discussions and student presentations in place of lectures.


7.  Narratives in addition to grades.


8.  Portfolios instead of a transcript.


This is an example of a digital portfolio at



9. "Take Apart Laboratory" or workshop, where broken items (fans, computers, air conditioners, refrigerators, car engines, etc.) are taken apart and analyzed (and, if possible, reassembled)  by students.  


10.  Learning through stories.   Ethics and inner strength are acquired by telling stories like Stanley Milgram's experiments, giving time for contemplation, and showing complex and morally ambiguous situations to the students.   


Time is a variable*:  students progress when they master a subject, not according to a fixed calendar related to their age group.  *The phrase is promoted by Dr. Fischler


Students are taught to suspend judgment (gathering information before leaping to a conclusion)


Lateral thinking exercises ( is a leading source of out-of-the-box thinking).  


Long-term relationships with the teacher are important.  


No more boring classes.


No more boring lectures.




Remarkable schools are described in this book.



Global Skills





CR__T___ITY and IM___G__N__TION


C____RT___SY and ET____Q___TTE


INT____ITY and HON______TY

AG____TY and AD___PT___ITY

ACC____SS and ANA____ZE information



Tony Wagner, a professor at Harvard University, wrote a book called The Global Achievement Gap.  He identified seven important skills that students need in the 21st Century.


My mentor Dennis Yuzenas added “courtesy and etiquette.”   Will Sutherland at added “integrity, ethics and honesty.”


To help you remember these items, think of CIA.  CCCCCC I I A A


When people ask me, “What do you teach?” they usually mean, “What subject do you teach?”  I reply, “I teach the nine global skills.   My students think that I’m a math teacher, but I’m preparing them to become global citizens.”



Math is everywhere, History is everywhere, French and Spanish are everywhere, and Chemistry, Physics, and Biology are everywhere.  As a math teacher, I might be the perfect person to teach writing or history to a student who loves math but doesn’t like other subjects.  I might be the wrong person to teach math to someone who hates math, unless I say, “M@ is a four-letter word” and I use other ways of teaching. 


I met a remarkable principal, Dana Ligocki, who collected puns with words about math.  Look at this unforgettable way of talking about numbers:  “Dear Math, I’m not a therapist.  Solve your own problems” and “Never drink and derive.”



A math board by Dana Ligocki, Life Skills school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


Another principal, Diane Grondin, told me to focus on the individual.  “Do whatever it takes to make math real for each student.  Don’t teach to the middle.  Find what works and do it.”  So I put a number line running along the edge of the ceiling of two walls with square roots next to each number.  “Square root of 625” was under “25” so the students can see the relationship. 



Warren Buffett and Bill Gates advocate teaching bridge to build skills of collaboration.  Mario Llorente ( promotes international dominos for the same reason.




Here are the answers to the missing letters. 




CR_i_T_ical Th_in_KING and PR_o_BL_e_M S_o_LVING

CR_ea_T_iv_ITY and IM_a_G_i_N_a_TION


C_ou_RT_e_SY and ET_i_Q_ue_TTE


INT_egr_ITY and HON_es_TY

AG_ili_TY and AD_a_PT_abil_ITY

ACC_e_SS and ANA_ly_ZE information


There’s a school in Los Angeles where these Global Skills are being built.   Please visit and learn more.


Get a copy of the Nightingale Initiative from New Learning Institute




The dining wall in Boca Prep International.




a poster by Ane and Irene



A student's opinion (about a “class with many independent projects”)

I think this class is interesting and I believe it is because we can lead the lesson by suggesting topics, discussing and discovering new things on the Internet and changing the program if we don't like it or find it boring.  I can't really suggest a way to make this class better since we have a lot of freedom and can change what we are doing according to what we would prefer much more.

What makes a class boring?   The wrong topics, a boring teacher, bad classmates are things that can make a class terrible.  Choosing a topic that is not fascinating or not putting passion in teaching destroys the attention of the class. Not helping in creating cooperation within the students is the worst thing a teacher can do.


Describe what you like about the class:  I like the fact that students are nice and we get along.  I love choosing every day what I want to do and I'm fond of discovering something I didn't know, such as "Save the Last Dance For Me" (a song that was sung in our class).


How can we improve the method?   We could read more books, like the ones about the method we are experimenting with.   Or we could keep some books on our own as I would like to do tomorrow, to practice with the reading with chapters that are more difficult than newspaper articles.  Giulia Mastrantoni,  6 August 2010



I asked my students to find inspiring quotations.  Here are some selections:


"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein.  …and curiosity will help you once you get there.  See    


“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” ~ Albert Einstein


“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso


“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes    Selected by Emilia Bonilla 


Life is not a matter of milestones, but of moments.


You never lose by loving, you lose by holding back. Selected by Sharon van Mourik 










Building International Bridges with BIBPenpals




 Improve your language skills with Skype, email and social networking.  Does this idea work?Here is a typical result:  John Lipkin, a high school student in 2006 (I tutored him for the SAT), came to my classroom and met Fernando from Colombia, Sezar from Turkey and Karim from Germany.  John gave them conversation practice and was invited to the homes of these students — John visited all of them over the next four years. (Learn more by contacting John BIB Penpals is an opportunity for your child to meet people who will give an “inside tour” of cities – when your child travels, the other student of English will be a local guide.  Some of my U.S. students have traveled around Europe without staying in a hotel.
I invite you to contact me directly with your questions
            954 646 8246       mobile
Skype  SteveEnglishTeacher


You have Internet skills:  Facebook, email, how to use Youtube to place a video of your school in easy reach of millions of people…

Why not get some community service hours using those skills to improve the lives of other people?

I am a teacher of English as a second language.  Teenagers from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia come to Florida to improve their accents every summer.  They return to their countries and ask me to find local U.S. teenagers so they can continue to improve their English.

You have what billions of people want:  the U.S. accent.  My students know British English, but they want to speak like you – you will help with “accent reduction.”

If you choose to participate in this helpful mission, there are some rules:
a)    Ask your parents to sit with you during the first contact by Skype.

b)    If you feel uncomfortable, stop the contact and talks with your parents.  ALSO:  report the incident  You should feel respected at every moment of the Skype call and there should be polite disucssions in email and text chat.

c)    Send me a copy of all email messages and Skype chat messages. I will use those records to calculate the hours of volunteer time.

d)    Please request a letter for “confirmation of volunteer hours” once a month.

Message to Parents
For this project to work successfully, your help is needed. Since you are a savvy worldly wise person, you can size up a person who wants to learn English:   Is the person polite?

The people listed on this web page are students that I have taught. I have additional lists of people who have asked for free English lessons but I have not taught them face-to-face. They appear to be sincere people and they are desperate to improve their English.



Help an Old Man

(invite a future old man to speak at your school)


I have information about how to use technology in classrooms to reduce the time that teachers spend talking.   Why not share this information?   When I'm sitting in my deathbed, I'll look back and remember the caring, compassionate, animated educators I met around the world.



Why not help a future old man collect some fond memories?   Help build the memories in my head by inviting me to show you how to 

- show your students how to build digital portfolios  (like portfolios at

- use ebooks more effectively

- download audio tracks from Youtube (,

- put your lectures online (just like Stanford, MIT and Berkeley)

- download videos from Youtube (so you have a digital library when the Internet is not available in your school)

- attract reluctant readers to books by using audio CDs

- build the nine Global Skills in your students with projects and discussions 

- bring the world into your classroom with Skype and

- lecture less with DVD and CD duplication

- use Facebook in the classroom

- use and other file sharing locations to reduce photocopying costs (more time for your family)

- build your classes around projects and discussions

- build in on-going professional development

- guide students to find their passions and discover interests through volunteering outside school

- use the Blazek method of guiding projects (complete with rubrics and examples).


Blazek's CD of Digital Projects is available for $99 per CD, with licensing arrangements at different price points for small and large schools.   Through an arrangement with Dr. Blazek, I can offer a sample of his CD for just $5 (that's my cost -- I pass the CD to you as part of the workshop).  I'll show you one of the projects in my workshop and if you want to experiment with the sample CD, you'll pay $5 for the sample.  You can make copies for your school to use the sample ... and you can contact Dr. Blazek for the complete list of projects at   I endorse this list of projects wholeheartedly and I've seen how the list can be used in any classroom. Developed for his Social Studies and History courses, the CD's projects have applications in sciences, foreign languages, mathematics, grammar, art, drama, music, physical education and other subject areas.  


What do experts say about Blazek's CD of Digital Projects?

"Blazek has made it easy to use projects in the classroom.  Rubrics, samples of what we're looking for in a good project, arranged in an easy-to-search Word document.  It doesn't get better."  

-- Dennis Yuzenas,

West Palm Beach, FL  


"This is good."

- Dr. Fischler, stated after viewing a prototype CD on 29 July 2011, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,


"I've been using projects to guide learning in my classroom for ten years and I've never seen a more organized system for communicating expectations and standards.  I expect that Blazek's CD will spark a flood of imitators.  I'm glad I purchased the original.  I show the CD to students and the early adopters are discussing which project they will attempt within two minutes.  The rest of the class is onboard within fifteen minutes.  I have project-based learning in my classroom without making a lesson plan -- and the work is differentiated and the students have personalized the projects to meet their individual learning goals.  Teaching just gets easier as I work smarter.   Thank you, Dr. Blazek."

- Steve McCrea,,  author of Guide On the Side (techniques for bringing projects to your classroom) and Let's Lecture Less (a quotations book with commentaries to "reset your mindset").




A Partial List of Recommended Websites and Videos


Go to,  look for “links” and start clicking.


For a list of projects that put these ideas into action, visit which is also found at TinyURL:


Enrique Gonzalez and the New Learning Institute have the elements in the Nightingale initiative.  Learn more: and


Eric Mazur and “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer”


Katie Gimbar and the “flipped” classroom,  for the larger book   Will Sutherland’s school.   Ted Sizer founded this coalition.    Dennis Littky’s school.   Charter High School of Architecture and Design, Philadelphia.




Thank you for welcoming me in your school:

TALK School of Languages, Aventura, Florida.

(space is reserved to list more schools – please contact me at +1 954 646 8246 or )




Let’s lecture less

Let’s find out what the students need

Let’s find out what the students want to learn



More learning is taking place in this picture than when I’m lecturing.  (Library at Boca Prep International,


This book has been organized to shift you from “a receptive learner” (passive) to “a participating learner” (active).   For tips about how to bring projects and discussions into your classes, visit


Please visit   You’ll see a list of several teachers who share the philosophy of “let’s lecture less.”


So, invite someone from the Visual and Active team to your school.  You’ll receive a free audio CD.