Personally, I became a teacher because I love to learn, and I had many teachers along the way that inspired me through their creative teaching methods. I'll never forget Doc Ann, as we called her. She would assign the most general, broad tasks with very few, but specific guidelines. Once she asked us to choose an object and describe how our five senses perceived it. If we could describe it well enough, without ever saying "give away" words, such as wet for water, etc., the class should be able to guess what we were writing about. It was a sort of writing version of charades. In another course, this one was Psychology 101, we were asked to break a social norm and describe to the class how it made us feel. Apparently it is socially expected to split the space in an elevator with other passengers. For example, if three strangers get on an elevator, they will automatically split the space into thirds. I decided to try standing next to a stranger, the only other person on the elevator, for 3 whole flights. It doesn't sound that strange, but if you try it, you'll see how incredibly uncomfortable it is!
So, because these instructors were the ones I learned the most from, I decided I wanted to be a memorable teacher myself. Here are a few things I recommend to keep sessions engaging:
1. Use technology! If you bring a laptop, some students, especially children, like to play games that require matching, or a time limit. It makes it an exciting challenge. Here's a great site! http://www.wordgametime.com/grade/4th-grade
2. In writing courses, the organization and technical rules can feel overwhelming when coupled with an unappealing topic. Let the student write down 5 topics, and you can write down 5 topics, tear each one off, fold it up, and ask the student to draw from the pile. (Try to make yours funny) For each surprise topic, the student can write a thesis statement. If you want to make it more in-depth, you can have them only draw as many as time permits and create an entire outline for the topic.
3. For Public Speaking students, I like to start with the obvious...the intro. This can also be the most fun. You can do a similar topic selection method as the "pick from the hat" game, but encourage the student to try a different type of attention-grabber for each one. For example, Anecdote, joke, shocking fact, etc. Often getting started can be the hardest part, so making that fun takes away some of that anxiety.
4. Kids love it when you bring colored gel pens! They can use them to proofread pre-printed paragraphs instead of the plain ol' ballpoint blue. It's a small thing, but it does make learning grammar just a little more fun.
5. Don't forget about our adult learners! Most of the time they are there because they have decided they need help and want to get the most out of the session. Staying focused, listening, and catering to their specific learning style can be all the student needs to stay engaged. Other times, the student is struggling because they do not enjoy the subject. In that case, refer to 1-4, and get to know your student. This can help loosen them up and release some of the anxiety a classroom atmosphere can produce for many.
Happy teaching! I'm really excited to hear what other instructors do to spice up their sessions!