It has been estimated that adult learners can listen with understanding for 90 minutes, but can only retain about 20 minutes’ worth of information. Therefore, a complete change of pace is needed within the lesson every 20 minutes to create a new cycle of learning and retention. Some educators even say that we need to vary the stimuli no less than every 8 minutes. Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to take a break every 8 to 20 minutes, but what it does mean is we need to do more than just lecture.
There are multiple ways you can vary the stimuli in your classroom. Start by being aware of how you present the material. You can add to your lecture by using gestures. When you gesture with your hands or your head for example, you portray an attitude. Gestures can clarify your meaning, help reveal your message and lend emphasis. Use your voice to create excitement and avoid being monotone at all costs. Don’t stay behind a podium or a desk, make sure to move around the classroom and engage with the students.
Another way to vary the stimuli during your lecture is by incorporating activities, technology, group discussions, Q&A, and energizers. Most presentations undergo a “spurt-sag-spurt” cycle. Energizers are great for the “sag” portions of a presentation when a lift or change of pace is needed. When using Energizers, make sure to keep in mind that they are more effective if they match the topic. It is important to vary the stimuli in your class to help students stay engaged in your presentation and more importantly, retain the information.