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Hit the right notes

Use your voice and perform to your class in different ways. You'll be number one in no time, says Sue Cowley.

View your lessons as a piece of music. Sometimes what's required is a slow, gentle style - Debussy, let's say. But with a laid-back class or a dull topic, you need a fast tempo to sweep the pupils along. Thrash metal, if you will.

To add pace, use your entire body. Lots of hand gestures, swooping movements around the room and a vocal speed that gees the pupils up. Vocabulary and tone help maintain pace. Say: "We've got loads of exciting things to do today" in an exhilarated voice and they might be fooled.

Play around with the speed of individual words, stretching some out like chewing gum, making a snappy, staccato sound for others. Use single syllable words to keep things tight: "Right, I want all eyes this way please" is better than: "OK, everybody looking towards the whiteboard".

Incorporate plenty of short, focused tasks - two minutes, three minutes, maybe five - give pupils too long and they will drift off task. Set clear targets to achieve, adding an element of competition to increase motivation. And finally, don't forget how every good gig ends, with a thunderous round of applause. After all, you've earned it and so have your kids.

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. Her books include Guerilla Guide to Teaching (Continuum). For more information, visit

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