Changing States


10 Ways to Change Students' States

Teachers often need to change the physical and/or psychological states of their students to prepare them for learning. Researchers over the last four decades have discovered that students' internal states and physiology influence one another. However, in preparing students to learn, it is easier to alter students' physiologies than internal states. Enjoy ten of the many ways to change students' internal states:

1. USE HUMOUR - One-liners, humorous stories or incidents can bring about rapid state changes.

2. SWITCH ROLES - The teacher says, "I don't seem to be able to reach you. Show me what I should do to reach you." or "I wonder if we switch roles if you could show me how to teach this lesson to you. Let's do that. I'll be you and you be me. Show me how I could best teach you."

3. EMPLOY "My Friend John" - This technique can be used when a particular state change is desired, but the teacher does not wish to take responsibility for the change. The teacher says, "I've never done this experiment before, but my friend John would do this ..." The teacher carries out the action which is designed to create the desired change(s). For example, in a situation where most of the class is not responding to the lesson the teacher says, "It looks like this lesson is boring you to death. I'm going to do what my friend John, who is an excellent teacher, would do. He would ask you for suggestions about how we could make this lesson more interesting. What suggestions would you have for him?"

4. PRETEND TO QUOTE OTHER PEOPLE - A teacher uses a "pretend quote" to send a message containing a built-in state change to a student, but this technique allows the teacher to give someone else the credit for the statement. For example, the teacher wishes to change the state of a student who is showing signs of falling asleep after lunch. The teacher says to the student: "The strangest thing happened to me this morning. I was feeling sleepy and almost walked into another teacher. He said to me, 'Why don't you wake up!' (with loud voice). I didn't know how to react. How would you have reacted?"

5. PLAY INCOMPETENT - Another way is having the teacher play incompetent. "I'm really not exactly sure how to do this ... etc." This state changes plays on the fact that students enjoy showing others that they can contribute to the learning experience and can create involvement and state change.

6. PRETEND TO GIVE UP - This state change has to be used selectively. In some situations, the teacher may want to pretend to give up. "I just don't seem to be able to teach you. I guess I'm just a failure." etc. This state change is based on the idea that people generally don't want to see others fail, and a positive behavioural change could result if used with selected students and in selected situations.

7. CHANGE BODY - Causing or having students move, change their body position, or change their breathing effectively changes their state. Students could stand up and stretch, breath deeply, go for a walk, and switch to different activities. (Also use Brain Gym exercises).

8. CHANGE RHYTHM AND TEMPO - Lowering one's volume or changing one's tone, or slowing one's tempo can change the state of learning. Shouting matches can be defused by lowering one's voice volume and tone, and by slowing down the tempo of the conversation.

9. USE EMBEDDED COMMANDS - The teacher has a command embedded in a seemingly harmless statement. "An interested student knows how to pay attention, Susan." or "Bob, if you can imagine yourself finishing your assignment and how relieved it will make you feel, you will want to complete your assignment!" The voice tone is changed where the sentence is highlighted, thus making the statement more of a command. This technique will stimulate the student's unconscious, and the desired state change may result.

10. USE AN ANCHOR - anchoring is the process of associating an internal response with some external or internal trigger, so that the response may be quickly re-accessed. Anchoring can be visual (looking at a specific picture), auditory (by using specific words and voice tones, hearing a specific piece of music), and kinaesthetic (as when touching a particular part of the body), or combinations. We experience many natural anchors: the school bell; flashing red; a song on the radio; the smell of a food. These experiences elicit thoughts, memories and feelings. This happens all the time in your class. From the place you stand, to motions you make, students are conditioned to elicit a certain state or give a certain response, you can use this to your advantage.

Many athletes, performers, actors and speakers use the power of anchoring to maximise performance. Here's how it is done:

Let's say you wanted to anchor your best teaching moments, so that when you're feeling less than your best, you could pull yourself into a more resourceful state. Think back to a moment when you were at your best - students were engaged, you were in strong rapport and the content was seamless. What were you thinking? What do you see now? What are you saying? Perhaps something such as: "I enjoy this!" "They're with me." "I know this material." What were you feeling? Perhaps you experienced joy, passion, excitement, curiosity. Be as present in that moment as you can. Notice where you are, what you are doing and the sounds you hear. Choose a word that represents the moment. A word like power, happiness or joy. Now clench your fist when you actually feel the moment come alive again, and say your word. Do this several times. You have now established an anchor for your best teaching moment.

Now imagine one of your less-than-best teaching episodes. As you do, clench your fist and feel the association from your best moment envelop you.

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