Way out of focus

13th February 2004 at 00:00
After an awful lesson in which no one seemed to understand anything I said and I was bombarded with questions, I decided to produce a handout in order to reduce the number of questions and offer an alternative to my speaking.

I planned the briefest of explanations and, in theory, this should have meant that the class could get on with their coursework unaided. Did it work? No. I was still asked questions that my sheet gave the answers to.

Did I need another handout to explain the first one? My students seem unable to concentrate long enough to take in my explanations or understand my written explanatory guides. In this case, I am left wondering how they learn.

I think you have the right idea. But maybe your guide could be improved. A larger font could help in the case of dyslexic students, and a coloured overlay can be effective. Text that is too densely set out can also cause problems and should be 1.5- or double-spaced. Just because facts are spelt out doesn't mean they will be any clearer. I often make the mistake of using overly complex words or phrases, and I'm continually reworking handouts. Don't despair - just get some feedback on their effectiveness and change them to meet your various students' needs.

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