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Student engagement – 5 quick ways to speak with gravitas

Compel your students to listen when you talk, with these tips from Robin Launder

  • Student engagement – 5 quick ways to speak with gravitas

1 | Get in position

When addressing the whole class, assume a commanding central position, square on to the students and give an attention primer, such as ‘Students, eyes on me.’ Once they’re looking at you and silent (with no chatting, rustling of papers, etc), begin delivering your message.

2 | Pace yourself

Speak slowly, clearly and succinctly, emphasising key words. A formal register and tone will elevate the importance of your message, thus communicating to your students that they need to be listening to you. Don’t fidget or pace, and don’t ‘um’ or ‘ah’. Scan the students as you speak.

3 | Rehearse

Practice your delivery style at home. This might feel a bit silly at first, but you’re partly an actor and partly an orator – no one in those professions would face an audience without practising and rehearsing, and nor should you.

4 | Be abrupt

If a student starts chatting while you’re speaking, stop abruptly – mid-sentence is powerful, mid-multisyllabic word even more so. Look at the student, adopt an expression of surprise, and wait until there’s silence. Pause a moment longer, then talk to the class again. Settle your gaze on that student once or twice more, to remind them you’ve not forgotten their indiscretion…

5 | Park the questions

When taking questions during your delivery, one can quickly become two, causing you to lose the attention of some (or even most) of the class. If you choose to take questions, do so only at the end. It’s often better to get all students working and on task, then speaking to the student with the question. Chances are it will have been answered by then, anyway…


Robin Launder is a behaviour management consultant and speaker; find more tips in his weekly Better Behaviour online course – see behaviourbuddy.co.uk for more details or follow @BehaviourBuddy.

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